Cannes: Dealmakers Cheery as Market Ticks Up

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While there have been few bidding wars since the festival began, distributors and sellers have reported steady business up and down the Croisette.

Cannes this year has something for (almost) everyone. In the market, there has been a strong mix of big commercial projects with smaller, cast-driven speciality films. In the festival lineup, a broad selection of critical favorites promise art house crossover success. While there have been few bidding wars since the festival began, distributors and sellers have reported business has been steady up and down the Croisette.

“I don’t know if it has something to do with the sunshine or not, but I haven’t heard much moaning this year,” said David Garrett, CEO of Mister Smith Entertainment. “Everyone seems in an upbeat mood.”

Compared to the lean years of the past few Cannes, this market offered up several big commercial projects for presales, including Block Entertainment’s R-rated comedy Bad Moms, starring Leslie Mann; EuropaCorp’s sci-fi epic Valerian, which Luc Besson is directing and with Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne starring; and Sierra/Affinity’s spy thriller The Coldest City, featuring Mad Max: Fury Road star Charlize Theron.

“There are a few big commercial titles that everyone is chasing, films that have obvious theatrical potential,” said Benjamina Mirnik-Voges, head of acquisitions at German distributor Universum. “What no one wants are the midrange films, sometimes with strong casts, where you can’t be sure they will work in the theaters.”

There also were a number of choice picks on the specialty spectrum, such as Content Media’s biopic Callas, with Noomi Rapace as the late opera great, among the hottest quality titles on offer.

“The response [to Callas] has been overwhelming. We’ve sold three or four major European territories; it was absolutely what we hoped for,” said Content Media president Jamie Carmichael. “What we’ve found is that these independent distributors, who are competing with the big Marvel movies and similar, are drawn to films that are either exceptionally original or have some kind of individual IP — like Callas — that give instant recognition.”