Cannes Dealmaking Finally Kicks Into High Gear

Courtesy of Director’s Fortnight Film

A handful of high-profile acquisitions closed on the morning of May 14, breathing life into what had been heretofore a somewhat sleepy market.

The Weinstein Co. plunked down mid-seven figures for North American rights to the Jeremy Renner-Elizabeth Olsen drama Wind River. CAA, which packaged the film and arranged the financing, repped the filmmakers.

Around the same time, Amazon Studios closed a deal for Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Here, which stars Joaquin Phoenix, its second acquisition of the fest after Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, a $20 million-plus period film, which will shoot in 2017.

A24 was on the prowl for both Wind River and You Were Never Here, though the fast-growing specialty distributor won’t go home empty-handed. Before this boom weekend, A24 picked up U.S. rights to two hot titles: David Robert Mitchell’s noir thriller Under the Silver Lake starring Andrew Garfield, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer starring Colin Farrell.

On the prebuy front, Broad Green acquired U.S. rights to the comedy Villa Capri, with Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones. The Orchard nabbed North American rights to Pablo Larrain’s Spanish-language film Neruda, one of the few finished films up for grabs at the festival. CAA also negotiated that deal.

“We came to Cannes hoping to find a foreign-language film we felt we could put our full weight and passion behind — something both artful and impactful,” The Orchard’s Paul Davidson says of the Gael Garcia Bernal starrer.

None of Saturday’s deals matched the scale of STX Entertainment’s buy — of U.S. and Chinese rights — to Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game. The mini-major will put down up to $9 million for the poker movie, starring Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.

Also active on the Croisette was Saban Films, which nabbed two titles for the U.S.: the dystopian thriller The Girl With All the Gifts and John Michael McDonagh’s War on Everyone. Gifts stars Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close. Everyone, which premiered in Berlin this year, stars Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard.

Focus Features, which is moving aggressively to expand its international business, picked up Andrea Arnold’s drama American Honey across most of the major international territories. Focus, via Universal Pictures International, will release the Shia LaBeouf starrer in the U.K., Germany, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia and Australia/New Zealand. A24 has U.S. rights via its earlier deal with CAA.

The Focus deal was the biggest on the international side, but the weekend brought a flurry of activity from global distributors. AMBI Distribution sold This Beautiful Fantastic, starring Tom Wilkinson, for much of the world, including Germany (NFP), Australia (Madman), Latin America (California Filmes), Portugal (Lusomundo) and Japan (Digital Networks Entertainment), among other deals.

Independent struck a pack of deals for Jim Jarmusch’s Iggy Pop documentary Gimme Danger, a Cannes midnight screening title, including with Le Pacte for France, Studiocanal in Germany and Transmission in Australia.

Pure Flix/Quality Flix closed on God’s Not Dead 2, the follow-up to its 2014 faith-based hit, inking deals across Europe, Latin America, Africa and Australia.

Despite the activity, however, some weren’t convinced that the market was really heating up. “With fewer finished films available this year and many sales agents holding off on selling domestic rights for promos, it has felt slower than previous years,” says Davidson. “But it feels as though that could start to change in the coming days.”

Additional reporting by Scott Roxborough