Cannes Hot List: 15 Titles Set to Heat Up the 2017 Market

6:00 AM 5/16/2017

by Tatiana Siegel and Rebecca Ford

As Netflix and Amazon challenge the traditional festival sales model, dealmakers are bracing for battle over a handful of key titles.

'Spinning Man'
'Spinning Man'
Courtesy of Michael Moriatis

Last year, the biggest Cannes deal saw STX Entertainment plunk down $50 million for foreign rights to Martin Scorsese's mob epic The Irishman, beating out Fox and Universal in a bidding war. Fast-forward 12 months, and that film may continue to dominate the conversation at the market this year. That's because in February, The Irishman financier Gaston Pavlovich opted out of the STX pact in favor of a worldwide deal with Netflix — a move that has implications for European distributors (Netflix forgoes a traditional theatrical release and instead launches directly to its subscribers).

"The Irishman will remain a talking point," says Bloom's Alex Walton. "For example, I was just in France and Italy, and though it's old news, people still want to talk about it. The fact that this move is taking box-office dollars away from the marketplace will reach a fever pitch come Cannes."

STX had mulled legal action against Netflix, but sources say the two sides have reached an understanding. Even so, the aftershocks can still be felt given that a $125 million film has defected to a streaming service. In fact, the presales market — a major slice of Cannes deal-making — continues to adjust to the sometimes crippling presence of Netflix and Amazon.

"Many European distributors are being impacted by the changing landscape of film distribution in the U.S. [as] a number of streaming services are getting in early and buying multiterritory deals, taking a lot of films out of the market that would have otherwise been sold here in Cannes," says CAA's Roeg Sutherland. "This is something U.S. distributors have dealt with for a number of years, with some stepping up to build their slates with early-stage prebuys."

Who will step up at Cannes 2017 — both from a domestic and international perspective — remains the question. With a fully built-out staff, Annapurna Pictures is expected to make a statement. Of course, there will be plenty of films, in various stages of production, that are expected to generate heat at the market. Here are 15 that show particular promise.

This story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Blessed Virgin

    Director: Paul Verhoeven

    BUZZ Based on the book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, the film will center on a (you guessed it) lesbian nun who claimed to have supernatural contact with Christ. Controversy is certain to ensue. Virginie Efira, who co-starred in Verhoeven's Elle, will slip into the habit as Sister Benedetta Carlini.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT SBS International

  • Book Club

    Director: Bill Holderman

    BUZZ Who wouldn't want to see Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Candice Bergen as book club members who read Fifty Shades of Grey and have their lives changed in unexpected ways?

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT Bloom, WME

  • Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings

    Director: Tsui Hark

    BUZZ The third in the hit Chinese mystery adventure franchise (Detective Dee 2 earned just shy of $100 million worldwide) from the veteran Hong Kong director sees Mark Zhao return as the titular Detective investigating a series of strange events in China during the Tang Dynasty.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT IM Global

  • Domino

    Director: Brian De Palma

    BUZZ Two of TV's biggest breakouts, Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, will play cops searching for their partners' killer in the action-thriller from the veteran director of Scarface and Dressed to Kill.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT IM Global, ICM Partners

  • Freak Shift

    Director: Ben Wheatley

    BUZZ Alicia Vikander stars in the sci-fi thriller about a revenge-seeking widow who heads up a ragtag band of lawbreakers and misfits who hunt and kill lethal nocturnal monsters. As she tracks the elusive creature that killed her husband, she is joined in the quest by her former lover (Armie Hammer).

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT MadRiver International UTA/WME

  • Georgetown

    Director: Christoph Waltz

    BUZZ Waltz's directorial debut, in which he will star alongside Vanessa Redgrave, recounts the story of Albrecht Muth, convicted in 2011 for murdering his much older socialite wife. Brett Ratner is producing.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT Cornerstone, ICM

  • H Block

    Director: Jim Sheridan

    BUZZ Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan and Pierce Brosnan star in the real-life drama from Jim Sheridan about the U.K.'s biggest-ever prison break, from the notorious Maze prison in Northern Ireland.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT Mister Smith Entertainment, WME & UTA

  • The Hummingbird Project

    Director: Kim Nguyen

    BUZZ Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgard play cousins who inhabit the high-stakes world of high-frequency trading and hatch a multimillion-dollar plan that involves plenty of danger if they fail.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT HanWay Films, CAA

  • Killerman

    Director: Malik Bader

    BUZZ Hunger Games star Liam Hemsworth will get in on the action genre playing a money launderer suffering from amnesia who attempts to figure out what happened to him.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT The Solution, WME

  • Redoubtable

    Director: Michel Hazanavicius

    BUZZ The last time Hazanavicius tackled the subject of yesteryear cinema with The Artist, he won five Oscars, including best picture. With Reboubtable, he zeroes in on the relationship between French auteur Jean-Luc Godard and a 17-year old actress.

    STATUS Finished film in competition

    SALES AGENT Wild Bunch, CAA

  • Reset

    Director: Yoon Hong Seung (aka Chang)

    BUZZ Jackie Chan is producing this high-concept Chinese sci-fi actioner about a scientist who can travel back in time — but only for 110 minutes — trying to save her son from a kidnapper. Features Chinese stars Yang Mi, King Shih-Chieh and Liu Chang.

    STATUS Production

    SALES AGENT Golden Network Asia Limited

  • Richard Says Goodbye

    Director: Wayne Roberts

    BUZZ Despite his recent struggles, this film seems tailor-made for Johnny Depp: A world-weary college professor is given a life-changing diagnosis and embraces his reckless side, indulging in tobacco, alcohol, sex and unfiltered talk with abandon.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT IM Global, CAA

  • The Sisters Brothers

    Director: Jacques Audiard

    BUZZ The director who won Cannes' Palme d'Or for Dheepan is back with a heavyweight cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed. Set against the backdrop of the 1850s Gold Rush, the film is based on Patrick de Witt's novel of the same name, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT IMR International, CAA

  • Spinning Man

    Director: Simon Kaijser

    BUZZ It's the type of did-he-do-it thriller that often resonates with international audiences. A charming professor (Guy Pearce) appears to be living an idyllic life with his wife (Minnie Driver) and their two children. But when a woman goes missing, he struggles to come up with an alibi to clear his name as a tough detective (Pierce Brosnan) becomes relentless in his pursuit of the truth.

    STATUS In production

    SALES AGENT Film Bridge International

  • The Widow

    Director: Neil Jordan

    BUZZ Cannes icon Isabelle Huppert (whose Elle debuted at the festival in 2016) and Chloe Grace Moretz will star in the thriller about a young woman who befriends an older widow.

    STATUS Preproduction

    SALES AGENT Sierra/Affinity, CAA and WME

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