In other words, one can argue that these films are as presold as any branded comic-book movie.
But then again, stars don't open movies the way they used to, as Julia Roberts ("Mirror Mirror") could tell you. And even the most heavily marketed, notably anticipated films can fail. "John Carter," anyone?
So whether the current mix of mainstream success and critical praise is a momentary blip or a rising trend, it's something to be celebrated by mainstream moviegoers. Motion pictures, for better or worse, remain at the top of the pop culture food chain. They're expensive and often disposable, so when they're executed well -- when they actually succeed in moving us -- fans should hope that there's room for more.
"It's a great and exciting moment for filmmaking and creativity," says Sundance's Satter. "And the audience wants to be a part of it."