Cannes Deal Wrap: Tiffany Haddish Scores, Buyers Shy From Opioid Drama

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
The opening ceremony on May 14 of the Cannes Film Festival.

Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight spent the most on a single title while Sony Pictures Classics went on a buying spree.

As the dust settled on Cannes May 25, big-ticket sales left dealmakers cautiously hopeful.

No sale was bigger than Paramount taking worldwide rights to the Chris Hemsworth-Tiffany Haddish comedy Down Under Cover with a budget commitment of $40 million, thwarting Netflix's $50 million bid on the FilmNation-sold project.

"We just completed a movie with Tiffany [Limited Partners] that we love," says Paramount's Wyck Godfrey. "And we've been dying to be in business with Chris and [producers Anthony and Joe Russo]."

But the Russo brothers, coming off the record-shattering Avengers: Endgame, were finding a little less enthusiasm for their next directing effort, the Tom Holland starrer Cherry, which centers on a veteran with PTSD who becomes an opiate addict.

Despite a well-attended presentation in Cannes in which the brothers laid out their vision, buyers privately expressed some doubts given that three films last year that covered similar addiction ground — Ben Is Back, Beautiful Boy and A Million Little Pieces — failed to catch fire (the latter hasn’t even found a distributor yet eight months after debuting at the Toronto Film Festival).

Nevertheless, international distributors saw plenty they liked. Roland Emmerich's sci-fi epic Moonfall, for one, pre-sold rights to Germany and Switzerland to Fred Kogel's new distribution and production group formed by the merger of German indie distributors Tele Munchen Group and Universum for an impressive $12 million. The film also sold in most of the world but still hadn’t inked a deal in China, a key territory for a $150 million film (though a source says one is imminent). Stateside, the project is likely to land with a studio.

“It's better than the past few markets, there are more projects and better, more commercial projects,” said Martin Moskowicz, CEO of German indie giant Constantin Film. Constantin picked up a handful of film in Cannes this year, including After we Collided, the sequel to erotic drama After, Nicolas Bedos’ out of competition comedy-drama La Belle Epoque, and $20m feature Eiffel, about the untold love story behind the creation of the Eiffel Tower.

Among the finished films snapped up by buyers, Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life topped the class with Fox Searchlight paying north of $13 million for U.S. rights and some international territories, signaling that Searchlight can still spend real money in the Disney era (that figure marks a Cannes record for a film playing in the festival lineup).

Sony Pictures Classics picked up two finished pics, Marco Bellocchio's Il Traditore and Michael Angelo Covino's The Climb (an Un Certain Regard winner), and a package for Benjamin Millepied's Carmen. Amazon landed U.S. rights to Ladj Ly's Les Misérables for $1.5 million (a Cannes record for a first-time helmer), plus the Joseph Gordon-Levitt drama 7500.

And Neon acquired Céline Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire in a deal with Hulu, beating out bidders including SPC and Netflix (the latter again losing out despite a higher offer, but on the festival's last day it took near-worldwide rights to Mati Diop's Grand Prix champ Atlantics and Critics' Week winner Jérémy Clapin's I Lost My Body). Netflix also snatched up worldwide rights, outside of UK free-TV rights, to Jane Campion's literary adaptation The Power of the Dog starring
Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Moss.

But China has gone cold. Trump's trade war, plus Beijing's crackdown on overseas investment and tightened censorship rules, has iced the once-sizzling market. This year, more Chinese films sold to North American distributors than vice versa.

"We have to wait and see if we can get a quota slot and censorship approval," says Cindy Mi Lin, CEO of Infotainment China Media, which closed a rare sizable China deal for the Shailene Woodley thriller Misanthrope. "No one can guarantee [a release date], not even old guns like us."

Patrick Brzeski contributed to this report.

A version of this story first appeared in the May 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.