With Netflix and Amazon lying low in Sundance, this year’s European Film Market may continue a return to more traditional sales models — and dealmakers couldn’t be happier.
After several shaky movie markets in an industry plagued by seemingly constant transition, distributors and sales outfits are heading to Berlin's European Film Market on Feb. 15 in an upbeat mood after Sundance. In Park City, newer buyers (Neon, 30West, MoviePass, Annapurna) snatched up titles, and the studios returned in force to the indie-pickup business, with Sony taking worldwide rights on the John Cho starrer Search, its SPC label nabbing Puzzle and Lionsgate boarding the Sundance opener Blindspotting. "There is some real breadth in the market," says Protagonist Pictures CEO Dave Bishop. "That's encouraging because it's not just focused on two players." He's referring to Amazon and Netflix, neither of which bought a film at Sundance.
Alison Thompson of Brit sales outfit Cornerstone Films also sees an ongoing shift away from the traditional presales market "toward what the business was like when I started in the 1990s, where buyers wait to bid on finished movies." Her Cornerstone partner Mark Gooder agrees: "The presale market isn't dead, but it's getting harder to hit that bull's-eye." Several days out, new Berlin projects are thin on the ground, though most expect a handful of big-name titles to come together just before the EFM opens.
THR's 11 titles to watch are below.
DIRECTOR Peter Farrelly
CAST Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali
Moonlight's Oscar winner Ali plays a virtuoso jazz pianist who forges an unlikely friendship with his blue-collar Italian-American chauffeur (Mortensen) during a 1962 tour of the racially segregated South. The film's dramatic tone is a departure for comedy specialist Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin).
DIRECTOR Alex Ross Perry
CAST Elisabeth Moss
The Handmaid's Tale star Moss has signed on to play Becky Something, a maniacally destructive punk rock star engaged in a yearslong war against sobriety in this new drama from Golden Exit director Perry.
STATUS Shooting later this year
DIRECTOR Thomas Stuber
CAST Sandra Huller, Franz Rogowski
German helmer Stuber follows up his award-winning Hubert (2015) with this low-key romantic drama featuring Toni Erdmann's Huller and up-and-coming German actor Rogowski, who will make his U.S. debut in Terrence Malick's Radegund next year.
DIRECTOR Chad Stahelski
CAST Keanu Reeves
The third entry in the shoot-'em-up franchise, starring Reeves as the assassin who just can't quit the life, is about the closest thing possible to a bull's-eye in the action movie space.
DIRECTOR Sam Taylor-Johnson
CAST Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Giovanni Ribisi
Fifty Shades of Grey director Taylor-Johnson teams up with her husband, Aaron (Nocturnal Animals), to take on James Frey's rehab memoir, which was the source of a literary scandal back in 2003 when it emerged that Frey invented many of the events described in his struggles with alcohol and crack addiction.
DIRECTOR Desiree Akhavan
CAST Chloe Grace Moretz, Jennifer Ehle, Quinn Shephard
Akhavan's comic drama, about Christian teens wrestling with gay-conversion therapy, picked up the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and won acclaim for its delicate treatment of a hot-button topic.
DIRECTOR Holger Tappe
The sequel to the 2017 animated movie, which featured the voice talents of Emily Watson, Nick Frost and Jason Isaacs and grossed more than $26 million internationally, returns with the Wishbones, an ordinary family who transform into monsters to save their friends and the world from an evil Monster Huntress.
DIRECTOR Adrian Noble
CAST Timothy Spall, Vanessa Redgrave
British acting treasures Spall and Redgrave headline this biopic about the relationship between early 20th century British painter L.S. Lowry and his mother, Elizabeth.
DIRECTOR Ozgur Yildirim
CAST Moritz Bleibtreu
The crossover success of Fatih Akin's In the Fade could bode well for this German thriller, set on the mean streets of Frankfurt and featuring Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run) as a gangster trying to make a final score in order to escape his life of crime.
DIRECTOR Eran Riklis
CAST Ben Kingsley, Monica Bellucci, Itay Tiran
This espionage thriller from the award-winning Israeli director of The Lemon Tree centers on an aging spy (Kingsley) on the trail of a supposed chemical weapons sale to a Middle East dictatorship while being followed by an ambitious Mossad agent (Tiran).
STATUS Shoots in the spring
DIRECTOR Brady Corbet
CAST Natalie Portman, Jude Law
Corbet's drama about the rise of a singer from national tragedy to pop superstar is back on track, with Oscar winner Portman replacing Rooney Mara in the leading role. Sia provided original songs for the soundtrack.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.