Despite the miserable weather, film financiers reported a strong market at the Cannes Film Festival, with Lionsgate and the Weinstein Co. making the biggest splashes with their acquisitions of Guillaume Canet's "Blood Ties" and Stephen Frears' "Philomena," respectively.
"Cannes was a strong market and titles were priced at the right levels," said the Gersh Agency's Jay Cohen, who noted that equity funds were very active and distributors seemed to buy what they wanted early on.
“I'd say the market was very healthy at large. There weren't as many surefire titles for buyers, but I mean that in a positive way," Alex Walton of Exclusive Media told TheWrap. "We had a positive reaction to our slate, from films in production like 'Jane Got a Gun' to post-production like our completely unique new film with Metallica. The Weinstein Company came in right at the end of the market on 'Passengers,' which was hugely positive for that film. I think it has the opportunity to be a fully-fledged independent blockbuster."
Lionsgate reportedly broke a Cannes Market record taking in more than $250 million in foreign sales, paying around $2 million for the star-studded thriller "Blood Ties" (left), which will be released via sister company Roadside Attractions, while FilmNation sold out "self/less," which pairs Ryan Reynolds with director Tarsem. Other hot projects involved Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams and Sean Penn.
Overall, business was brisk in the "bric territories" (Brazil, Russia, India and China), as well as Germany, Latin America and the Middle East, but movies did not sell as well in Spain, Greece and Italy, where buyers weren't as active as in past years. Even France and the U.K. have their problems.
"Some territories are a real struggle, while others require real precision. The greatest stress is in European territories that aren't making up their end of the economic crisis, but we have to evolve with them," Walton said.
"While the market was steady, there has been a recalibration of the value among the territories, though it hasn't necessarily gone up or down," said Ariel Veneziano, president of the newly-formed company International Film Trust, which represents a consortium of high-profile producers.
Financiers scramble to get sales material ready for the market, one of the most important of the year. Veneziano said that IFT put a lot of thought and effort into marketing titles “even though it’s early because it’s the mother of all events in the film business. It’s arguably the most high-profile festival and the most aggressive market so it remains a very key event throughout the year.”
“The Cannes market is just brutal because it goes on for so long, but so much of the year is focused on this week,” Walton echoed. "We had intimate meetings with many distributors and talent is always happy to come since it's so important, so it's an amazingly effective week to do business."
Here were some of the bigger deals and projects getting buzz at this year’s market:
>> Beyond "Blood Ties," Lionsgate also made a deal with Exclusive Media for North American distribution rights to John Pogue's supernatural thriller "The Quiet Ones."
>> In addition to "Philomena," which stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, the Weinstein Co. picked up "Suite Francaise" with Michelle Williams and "Passengers" with Keanu Reeves, whose directorial debut "Man of Tai Chi" was acquired by Radius-TWC, which also picked up "Blue Ruin."
>> Studiocanal and Corsan nearly sold out Sean Penn vehicle "The Gunman" and Paul Haggis' ensemble drama "Third Person," respectively.
>> Sierra/Affinity did well with Ryan Gosling's directorial debut "How to Catch a Monster" and a remake of the Burt Reynolds movie "Heat" that stars Jason Statham. Focus Features International found much success with Kevin Macdonald's Jude Law-starrer "Black Sea."
>> Elsewhere, Magnolia acquired S. Craig Zahler's directorial debut "Bone Tomahawk," which stars Kurt Russell and Timothy Olyphant. As far as smaller titles go, "The Lunchbox" and "Pioneer" sold well for the Match Factory and TrustNordisk, respectively.
Hyde Park International's Eric Christenson said the company had "a very good market thanks to 'Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return in 3D,' which we did very well with." The company also showed footage of Dan Schechter's untitled adaptation of Elmore Leonard's crime novel "The Switch." The title of the movie will be changed due to the 2010 comedy "The Switch" starring Jennifer Aniston, who also stars in Schechter's movie along with John Hawkes, Tim Robbins and Will Forte.
"We did great on that one and Amy Berg's 'Every Secret Thing,' which we also had footage of," Christenson said.
Cohen said that John Slattery's directorial debut "God's Pocket" received lots of offers and is 100% equity financed. "He assembled a great cast and everyone loved the subject matter," he said. Gersh also got offers on launched a commercial sci-fi/comedy called 'Run Like Hell,'" which Cohen described as "Zombieland" meets "Aliens" in tone.
IFT was "very pleased" with sales on 'King of the Castle,' which is in pre-production with Clive Owen attached to star and Michael Benaroya producing. Veneziano also sold multiple territories on Eduardo Sanchez' horror thriller "Exists," with a Toronto premiere in mind. "It's not highly pre-sellable but based on the teaser trailer promo we had a nice slew of deals and it was nice to get the ball rolling on that one," he said.
"Overall, we had a very good experience," said Walton, whose company was stretched thin between selling movies and promoting them during high-profile events. "We're focused on original material, and the inherent nature of that means it isn't always going to be a slam-dunk, but I think that was embraced this year."