The indie blockbuster is dead, but a diverse field of midrange projects has emerged, from a radical retelling of 'A Christmas Carol,' starring Carey Mulligan, to '17 Bridges,' starring Chadwick Boseman as an NYPD detective hunting down a pair of cop killers.
The American Film Market is changing. With the collapse of the home entertainment market and the disruption of the traditional theatrical business — Disney and Fox merging to concentrate studio power at one end, Netflix and Amazon at the other, cannibalizing the audience for midlevel genre and art house films — the big, A-list projects (think Twilight, The Expendables or The Hunger Games) are few and far between.
“It doesn't fell like many giant packages floating around, those $25 million-$30 million dramas, or the $60 million plus action movies, those are hard to make these days,” says Jonathan Kier Sierra Affinity, whose slate focuses more on mid-budget fare with awards potential, like Vox Lux starring Natalie Portman or Wild Rose with Julie Walters and Jessie Buckley.
"The old AFM model of getting 20 percent of your budget off of international presales — it's much harder to access the level of talent you need to guarantee those numbers," says Fabien Westerhoff of U.K.-based Film Constellation. "But the fragmentation of the marketplace also offers opportunities because there are fewer barriers to entry from new companies and new talent."
Still, the success of upstart distributors A24 (Hereditary), Neon (Three Identical Strangers), Aviron Pictures (The Strangers: Prey at Night) and STX Entertainment (I Feel Pretty) shows how the end of the old AFM model hasn't meant the end of the indie business.
While the size of new projects being shopped at AFM may have gone down, the number and variety of titles on sale has not. The films on THR's AFM 2018 hot list range across genres, styles and budgets, each with a fair shot at becoming the next big thing.
Alex Ritman contributed to this story.
SALES Saboteur Media
DIRECTORS Jacqui and David Morris
STARS Carey Mulligan, Andy Serkis, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman
BUZZ A radical retelling of the holiday classic that starts with a Victorian performance of the Charles Dickens tale before diving into the imagination of one of the children in the audience, taking the story to a darker fantasy realm.
SALES Voltage Pictures
DIRECTOR Tate Taylor
STARS Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Common
BUZZ Chastain reteams with the director of The Help on this action-thriller, playing a black ops mercenary who herself becomes a target when a high-profile job goes wrong.
DIRECTOR Peter Segal
STAR Dave Bautista
BUZZ Guardians of the Galaxy star Bautista gets his Kindergarten Cop mojo going in this action-comedy about a hardened CIA operative sent undercover to surveil a family who finds himself at the mercy of a precocious 9-year-old girl.
DIRECTOR Brian Kirk
STARS Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch
BUZZ Black Panther star Boseman plays a disgraced NYPD detective thrust into a citywide manhunt for a pair of cop killers after uncovering a massive conspiracy.
SALES HanWay Films/UTA
DIRECTOR Viggo Mortensen
STARS Mortensen, Lance Henriksen, Sverrir Gudnason
BUZZ Green Book star Mortensen makes his directorial debut with this intimate family drama — which he also wrote and produced — about a son's relationship with his aging father.
SALES The Exchange
DIRECTOR Marilyn Agrelo
BUZZ The success of Mr. Rogers doc Won't You Be My Neighbor has sparked interest in nostalgic nonfiction of the sort this new documentary, on the origins of long-running children's TV show Sesame Street, from Mad Hot Ballroom director Marilyn Agrelo, promises to deliver.
SALES Mister Smith Entertainment/ CAA/WME
DIRECTOR Max Winkler
STARS Jack O’Connell, Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Barden, Jonathan Majors
BUZZ A reluctant bare-knuckle fighter (O'Connell) and his older brother (Hunnam) travel cross-country to take part in Jungleland, a notorious underground fighting tournament, accompanied by the girlfriend of a dangerous mob boss (Barden).
SALES VMI Worldwide
DIRECTOR Clark Duke
STARS Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn
BUZZ Hot Tub Time Machine actor Clark Duke wrote and will co-star in this directorial debut alongside Hemsworth, playing low-level drug runners in the Dixie Mafia who fall afoul of Arkansas-based drug kingpin Frog (Vaughn).
SALES Cornerstone Films
DIRECTOR Gregor Jordan
STARS Kelly Macdonald, Garrett Hedlund, David Wenham
BUZZ The long-in-development adaptation of Tim Winton's gritty, sexy Australian love story.
DIRECTOR Peter Cattaneo
STARS Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan
BUZZ Taking his notes from an award-winning BBC doc series, The Full Monty director Cattaneo turns his musical attention to a group of misfit women who form a choir on a military base.
A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.