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Last year, the biggest Cannes deal saw STX Entertainment plunk down $50 million for foreign rights to Martin Scorsese's mob epic The Irishman, beating out Fox and Universal in a bidding war. Fast-forward 12 months, and that film may continue to dominate the conversation at the market this year. That's because in February, The Irishman financier Gaston Pavlovich opted out of the STX pact in favor of a worldwide deal with Netflix — a move that has implications for European distributors (Netflix forgoes a traditional theatrical release and instead launches directly to its subscribers).
"The Irishman will remain a talking point," says Bloom's Alex Walton. "For example, I was just in France and Italy, and though it's old news, people still want to talk about it. The fact that this move is taking box-office dollars away from the marketplace will reach a fever pitch come Cannes."
STX had mulled legal action against Netflix, but sources say the two sides have reached an understanding. Even so, the aftershocks can still be felt given that a $125 million film has defected to a streaming service. In fact, the presales market — a major slice of Cannes deal-making — continues to adjust to the sometimes crippling presence of Netflix and Amazon.
"Many European distributors are being impacted by the changing landscape of film distribution in the U.S. [as] a number of streaming services are getting in early and buying multiterritory deals, taking a lot of films out of the market that would have otherwise been sold here in Cannes," says CAA's Roeg Sutherland. "This is something U.S. distributors have dealt with for a number of years, with some stepping up to build their slates with early-stage prebuys."
Who will step up at Cannes 2017 — both from a domestic and international perspective — remains the question. With a fully built-out staff, Annapurna Pictures is expected to make a statement. Of course, there will be plenty of films, in various stages of production, that are expected to generate heat at the market. Here are 15 that show particular promise.
This story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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