Why Buyers and Sellers Are Euphoric Over 'Incredibly Strong' Cannes Market (Cannes)

"Dragon (Wu Xia)"
"Dragon (Wu Xia)"
 Cannes Film Festival

CANNES -- Cannes is humming with horror, laughter, destruction, sex addiction and crime. And then there are the movies.

By mid-market Sunday, a surprisingly positive feeling had descended along the Croisette, as the breadth of the material on display at the Marche du Film was drawing a stampede of eager suitors that has included, in a new twist, the U.S.

“At the half-way stage, it seems like a bumper market,” says IM Global CEO Stuart Ford, who is shopping nine projects at the fest and has struck a hearty number of major territory deals on multiple titles.  “Business is incredibly strong — not just on one or two titles, but across the board. It’s very buoyant.”

The wide-ranging menu of budgets has provided something for everyone, with high-profile features Pompeii (Summit International) and Ender’s Game (Sierra/Affinity) selling out in much of the world as remake rights and more specialty titles such as Thanks for Sharing (Voltage Pictures), On the Road (MK2) and Spectre (IM Global) are finding homes in many foreign territories.

“It’s a great market because the buyers are happy and the sellers are happy,” says Voltage CEO Nicolas Chartier, who’s also fielding brisk sales on the Bruce Willis starrer Fire With Fire, the ensemble comedy Peace, Love & Misunderstanding and the Marcus Nispel-directed film Backmask.

Voltage Pictures has offloaded territory rights for Stuart Blumberg’s directorial debut Thanks for Sharing to Transmission Films in Australia, Minerva Pictures Group in Italy, Strada Films in Greece and Gulf Film in the Middle East, plus several more. Deals for the film, which has Mark Ruffalo and Tim Robbins attached as it continues to cast, are imminent for rights in the U.K. and Germany.

IM Global has sold the film adaptation of the oh-so-British TV series The Inbetweeners to Square One in Germany, Maple in Canada, Village Roadshow in Australia, Aurum in Spain and French Connection in France (Entertainment already had rights in the U.K.), and it has offloaded the F. Gary Gray-directed thriller The Last Days of American Crime to Momentum in the U.K., Alliance in Canada, Icon in Australia and EEAP in Eastern Europe, in addition to Korea and others.

James Wan’s Spectre, which has Nicole Kidman starring and producing through her Blossom Films banner, has closed deals with Icon Film Distribution in Australia, Koch Media in Germany, Gussi Films in Latin America, Top Film in Russia, Aurum Films in Spain and Momentum Pictures in the U.K, while IM Global’s crime thriller Welcome to the Punch has sold to Square One in Germany and Pinnacle in Australia.

Francis Ford Coppola’s long-gestating adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s beat classic On the Road, which Walter Salles has directed from a Jose Rivera script, has sold to Canada, Scandinavia and Greece. MK2 is repping sales for the project, which it pre-sold to the U.K. (Icon), Germany (TMG) and Italy (Medusa). Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams star.

Meanwhile, Sierra/Affinity has sold most territories on its Donald Westlake-derived thriller Parker, including Germany (Constantin). Taylor Hackford is directing with Jason Statham attached to star.

Even as the bargaining has proven fruitful, however, cross-company trash-talking has kept pace.

“What I find particularly nasty this year is how people are bad-mouthing each other’s projects,” said A Company CEO Alexander van Dulmen. “You go to one seller and it’s, ‘I don’t see how they’re going to get that made, it’ll never happen.’ And then you go to the next guy, and it’s the same thing in reverse. It’s never been this bad. It shows how nervous everyone is right now.”

Or it could mean that everyone sees that there is an especially flush pot of money on the table. Domestic sales have been jumping, as well.

FilmDistrict picked up rights late Saturday to the time-travel actioner Looper for a release through Sony’s TriStar label, then Sunday the fledgling distributor snagged Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey for U.S. audiences to check out during a Christmas rollout. The Weinstein Co. and Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Co. spent big bank to get the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady from Pathe, while TWC got rights to the martial arts film Dragon (Wu Xia).

A more traditional Cannes player, Sony Pictures Classics nabbed the competition drama Footnote. And Echo Bridge Entertainment has grabbed all North American rights to the Edoardo Ponti-directed Coming & Going. Front Row has taken rights to the romantic comedy for the Middle East, HBO for Poland, Grandview Castle for the Czech and Slovak territories and Mysteria for Russia. The Little Film Co. reps sales for the project.

FilmNation’s The Wettest County in the World has deals both domestic and international likely.

Back in Europe, the Millennium Films/Nu Image re-hash The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D sold to Constantin in Germany, and the company’s Katherine Heigl-Robert De Niro comedy The Big Wedding sold to Concorde in the same territory. Concorde also picked up the Inferno Entertainment adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, which has Saoirse Ronan starring.

Kinowelt bought FilmNation’s re-vamp The Brother’s Grimm: Snow White, starring Julia Roberts, for Germany, while Telepool took the surf film Mavericks from Lakeshore. Wild Bunch acquired all German rights to the revenge thriller Julia X 3D from Dixie Theatrical Corp.

Russian distributor Paradise went on a buying spree, scooping up Summit Entertainment and Focus International’s entire slates, which include Pompeii, Tarzan 3D, Mr. Pip and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. The Russian market has been on a rebound, but the size of Paradise’s minimum guarantee commitment for the slates — estimated in the $15-18 million range — surprised many.

Those outlays are representative of buyers’ lack of hesitation with big spending this go-round.

“With so many big titles out there initially I thought it was going to be a buyer’s market, but many sellers are getting their asking prices,” says van Dulmen, who buys for Russia and Eastern Europe. “There’s a lot of money being thrown around.”

Santiago Segura’s Torrente IV 3D, a top-ticket franchise in Europe with more than $100 million in theatrical ticket sales, has been popular with buyers. French and English remake rights were sold by Buenos Aires-based seller FilmSharks — it has set up a dedicated department to handle remake rights across its sales slate — to Le Petit Reine and New Line respectively. Sasha Baron Cohen is tipped to star in the New Line remake.

Kinoprom closed a six-figure deal on the project for CIS territories, while Delta Films took it for Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia; Budapest Film corralled it for Hungary; and Mirus Tuck took if for former Yugoslavia territories. Since the film’s market premiere Sunday, additional offers have been put on the table for rights in the U.S., France, Brazil, Germany and Mexico.

FilmSharks also is offering local-language remake rights for the original Torrente; Dutch and German deals are expected to close shortly. Warner Bros. and Argentina’s Carrousel have optioned rights to the company’s A Boyfriend for My Wife, while deals for Italian, Korean, Mexican and Spanish remakes are also in the offing.

Jinga Films has closed several territories on Srdjan Spasojevic’s controversial A Serbian Film, which played the SXSW Film Festival in 2010 and will be released stateside by Invincible Pictures. The pic went to Brazil’s Petrini Films, Mexico’s 24 Frames, Benelux’s Zeno and France’s Elephant, which also picked up Darren Ward’s U.K. gangster thriller A Day of Violence and Rhys Davies’ Zombie Undead from Jinga.

But as a sign of just how permanently impermanent the health of the world film economy has become in recent years, even a market as frolicking as this can’t banish hard-earned skepticism.

“After Berlin, where there wasn’t really anything on offer, Cannes has been great,” says head of film and TV at Constantin Film Martin Moszkowicz. “But I wouldn’t want to call it a trend. Come AFM, it could be there’ll be nothing again.”

Stuart Kemp, Gregg Kilday, Pam McClintock and Scott Roxborough contributed to this report.

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