EFM business sunny despite chilly climate

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COLOGNE, Germany -- Despite fears of the coming economic apocalypse it was business as usual at the 2009 European Film Market, which wrapped up last week.

Attendance figures -- 6,300 compared with 6,443 last year -- defied the most dire predictions and while U.S. domestic deals were thin on the ground, international sales remained strong.

Graham King’s GK Films had one of the few big U.S. deals out of Berlin, singing with Warner Bros. for North American rights on Martin Campbell’s Mel Gibson-starrer “Edge of Darkness.” Smaller domestic pick-ups included The Weinstein Company’s acquisition of Gilles Bourdos’ English-language debut “Afterwards” from Wild Bunch and Magnolia Pictures taking Thai action title “Ong Bak 2” from Sahamongkolfilm International for its Magnet Releasing genre label.

The bulk of the biz, however, was global. Fears the credit crunch would mash the international pre-sale business proved unfounded.

Summit International inked major territory sales for Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost” including deals with Germany (Kinowelt), France (Pathe) and Italy (Rai/01) and wrapped some of the few remaining territories for “Twilight” sequel “New Moon,” singing with Aurum in Spain and Belga in Benelux. The teen vampire romancer is already set to go through Summit’s international output partners including TMG in Germany, E1 in the U.K., SND in France and Eagle Pictures in Italy. Separately, Summit signed with Eagle Pictures, for a package of upcoming films, including family comedy “Furry Vengeance” starring Brendan Fraser and a series of teen titles.

IM Global reported strong sales for “St. Vincent,” the upcoming action drama, which reunited Mickey Rourke with “Johnny Handsome” director Walter Hill. The title went to Latin America (Swen), Scandinavia (Scanbox), Benelux (RCV), Greece (Village Roadshow) and Portugal (Ecofilms) among others.

IM also closed pre-sales on psychological thriller “After Life” starring Liam Neeson and Christina Ricci with deals with Australia and New Zealand (Village Roadshow), France (Other Angle), South Korea (Ssamzie) and Beneleux (RCV) and “Shelter” starring Julianne Moore which was snatched up by E1 for Canada, Eagle Pictures for Italy and Scanbox for Scandinavia.

German distributors proved as hungry as ever for top indie titles, with TMG/Concorde picking up rights to Robert Redford’s “The Company You Keep” and Terry Gilliam’s “Zero Theorem” from Voltage Pictures and John Carpenter’s “The Ward” from Film Nation and Constantin Film snatching Neil Marshall’s Romans-in-Scotland epic “Centurion.”

Up-and-comer Ascot Elite picked up German rights to writer/director Julian Gilbey's upcoming action thriller "The Long Weekend" starring Franke Potente from Carnaby International and Korean creature feature “Claw” from Fine Cut.

And despite some critical griping about the commercial prospects of this year’s Berlinale lineup, Festival titles were also hot sellers. Pathe International sold Stephen Frears’ “Cheri” starring Michelle Pfeiffer to Alta Films for Spain, Lumiere for Benelux and Nordisk for Scandinavia; TrustNordisk lined up deals in France (EuropaCorp), Greece (Seven Group) and the Middle East (Phars Film) for Hans-Christian Schmid’s “Storm” and The Match Factory booked multiple-territory deals for Golden Bear winner “The Milk of Sorrow,” double Silver Bear champ “Gigante” and Theo Angelopoulos’ out of competition entry “The Dust of Time.”

“Berlin and the EFM have again proven to be a strong platform for the launch of our films and for worldwide sales,” said The Match Factory’s managing director Michael Weber, echoing many EFM attendees. “Our expectations have been totally fulfilled.”
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