Cannes buyers still kicking tires

Bigger markets are playing waiting game

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CANNES -- The grey skies above Cannes and the empty halls of the Marche du Film invite the gloomiest of forecasts as the market closes in on the halfway mark.

But despite the empty tables at the Martinez and the blowing tumbleweed atmosphere in the Marche bunker, deals are getting done.

"I know the halls seem empty but the really important people are here," said Charlotte Mickie executive vp international sales and acquisitions at Canada's E1 Entertainment, which have closed some 22 deals so far, including ones for the Ryan Phillippe starrer "The Bang Boom Club" to Paradiso in Belgium and drama "One Week," featuring Joshua Jackson and Campbell Scott, to Ascot Elite for German-speaking Europe.

While the big U.S. buyers have been quiet so far there has been a steady stream of second-tier domestic deals. IFC, Sony Pictures Classics and Music Box have scooped up two titles each; Lorber HT Digital grabbed all U.S. rights on Aleksandr Sokurov's 2005 WWII drama "The Sun" from the Works; and Vanguard International Cinema nabbed Jing-Jie Lin's "The Most Distant Course" and Huai-en Chen's "Island Etude" from Taiwan's Joint Entertainment.

But with budgets tight, buyers in most major territories continue to play the waiting game.

"People are taking their time, they are looking at everything and going back to titles they saw in Berlin or AFM," Thorsten Ritter of Bavaria Film International said. "I think it will be early next week before we see the real sales getting signed."

It hasn't helped that this year's festival Competition has yet to deliver a buzz title.

"Everything's very subdued, we need something hot to really get things moving," said Hussain Amarshi of Canadian distributor Mongrel Media.

Cannes doesn't have much time. The first weekend is traditionally when buyers break out their checkbooks, so if the big deals don't happen soon, they are unlikely to close before everyone heads home.

Patrick Frater and Stuart Kemp contributed to this report.
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