Berlin: Buyers Looking for Laughs With A-List Comedies

Salma Hayek TIFF - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

Salma Hayek TIFF - H 2015

Projects with strong talent attached are seeing healthy sales, including the first big acquisition of the festival: George Clooney's 'Suburbicon.'

Comedies may be getting the last laugh at the Berlin International Film Festival. While plenty of dramas are being sold at the European Film Market this year, it’s the slew of buzzy comedies with A-list talent that have buyers clamoring for lighter, funny fare.

The first big sale of the festival was for a comedy: The George Clooney-helmed Suburbicon, a dark comedy about a quiet neighborhood that gets caught up in a web of betrayal and paranoia, was scooped up by Paramount in a big $10 million deal for U.S. rights. With stars Matt Damon and Julianne Moore attached, the package is expected to do strong sales internationally as well, with Bloom fielding plenty of interest already.

“At a time when this business is getting much tougher and we’re all looking for things that will draw an audience to come to the cinema, humor is one of the things that is still a shared experience,” said Mister Smith CEO David Garrett, who is selling Broad Green’s dance comedy Ain’t No Half Stepping at EFM. “If you want to get people to come and watch something, it’s about sharing emotions onscreen.”

Among other high-profile comedies attracting buyers is Drunk Parents, starring Salma Hayek and Alec Baldwin. Fortitude International has sold the Fred Wolf-helmed film to eOne for Canada and Dutch FilmWorks for Benelux, and more sales are quickly following. Like Drunk Parents, other hot properties all come with notable comedic talent attached, including just-announced project An Ideal Home, which stars Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan as a troubled married couple.

“It’s hard to package independent comedies, because most big comedies get done at the studios where the actors are paid big bucks,” said Fortitude co-founder Nadine de Barros, “but many of these projects have an edge or are a little darker, so that can be fun for actors.”

Other buzzy packages with notable talent include The Brits Are Coming featuring Uma Thurman and Sofía Vergara; The Clapper with Ed Helms; Tom’s Dad starring Will Ferrell; and The Big Sick, which is written by and will star Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and is being produced by Judd Apatow.

Internationally, comedies also have the advantage of working well across multiple platforms, including television and VOD, so buyers can essentially get more bang for their buck.

“It’s becoming harder and harder for buyers to make money on movies, and TV is one of the few sources of revenue left. Comedies play well on television, especially in Europe,” added de Barros, who noted that in countries like France, women are known as the main audience for VOD and are also the most interested in comedies.