AFM Hot List: 10 Titles Set to Heat Up the Market

7:00 AM 10/31/2018

by Scott Roxborough

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.

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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.

  • 'A Christmas Carol'

    Manuel Harlan

    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.

  • 'Eve'

    David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

    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.

  • 'My Spy'

    Victor Chavez/WireImage/ Getty Images

    SALES STXinternational

    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.

  • '17 Bridges'

    Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

    SALES STXinternational

    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.

  • 'Falling'

    Getty Images

    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.

  • 'Street Gang'

    Courtesy of Moby Group

    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.

  • 'Jungleland'

    Charlie Hunnam
    Charlie Hunnam
    Kevin Tachman/Getty Images

    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).

  • 'Arkansas'

    Liam Hemsworth
    Liam Hemsworth

    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).

  • 'Dirt Music'

    Kelly MacDonald
    Kelly MacDonald
    Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

    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.

  • 'Military Wives'

    Kristin Scott Thomas
    Kristin Scott Thomas
    Julien Hekimian/Gettyimages

    SALES Embankment

    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.