Berlin 2013: Adult-Oriented Dramas on the Rise

Berlin Film Fest - H 2013

Berlin Film Fest - H 2013

EFM buyers are set to replace gun-toting action heroes with more serious fare.

BERLIN -- The aging gun-toting action hero is being taken down by a stealthy, fragrant-fresh adversary as adult-themed movies, particularly those designed to reach social media-savvy women, clamor for market attention.

The European Film Market here has plenty to offer buyers looking to shore up distribution slates with movies targeting grown-ups as the box-office appeal wanes for more macho action fare.

STORY: Zac Efron-Marcia Gay Harden Starrer 'Parkland' Sells Around the Globe

Adult dramas have been beating projections both in the U.S. and internationally, while old-school action movies, once the bread and butter of markets, have been in a dogfight to secure audiences.

While Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand and Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head try to recapture the success of The Expendables, movies such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Silver Linings Playbook and Hyde Park on Hudson set the bar for what buyers are expecting in terms of cast, quality and bankability.

“Making a modestly budgeted action picture isn’t a guaranteed formula anymore, which is good for us,” says Marc Butan, head of Megan Ellison’s sales outfit Panorama.

Panorama’s big EFM title is the Jake Gyllenhaal-Ben Mendelsohn road-trip drama Mississippi Grind, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

“If you program for older audiences, they will go,” said Lisa Wilson, who sold Arbitrage overseas via her sales and finance banner The Solution Entertainment Group. “Now, with all the technology, older moviegoers are more likely to go.” Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere, overindexed in a number of markets, including Russia, Australia and Latin America.

For one sales veteran, Berlin is “an interesting market because everything comes together so late” because of November’s AFM, then the Christmas break and then Sundance.

The days leading up to the EFM were a case in point with a slew of high-profile projects announced on the eve of Berlin, a good deal later than usual for scripts to go out to buyers.

“For the bigger movies coming from the independents, it is becoming more difficult to put together budgets and cast,” said Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairman Patrick Wachsberger. “It looks like a much weaker market this year,” said Helge Sasse, CEO of German indie distributor Senator Film. “There is very little in the way of quality films on offer.”

But come armed with the right blend of cast and projected potential, and plenty of business can be done. “The appetite is there,” says Sierra/Affinity CEO-president Nick Meyer, who is in Berlin for presales on the Sam Worthington thriller For the Dogs, directed by Phillip Noyce.

Some of the hot projects generating market buzz as the EFM kicks off include the Nicolas Cage drama Joe from Worldview Entertainment, Lionsgate’s Russian child-murder drama Child 44 with Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace and Focus Features’ Kill the Messenger starring Jeremy Renner as a blacklisted journalist.

And genres appealing to female-skewing audiences are likely to set the market sizzling, with FilmNation expected to report brisk business on its untitled Marc Lawrence romantic comedy with Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei.

“Films that appeal to a female audience are broader [in appeal] because the women will take men along,” said one market regular. Female audiences are also easier to reach with Facebook campaigns and Twitter reactions.

Scott Roxborough and Clarence Tsui contributed to this report