Cannes: Deep-Pocketed U.S. Buyers Drive Deals in Revived Market

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“It's a real turnaround from the past three markets," says one European buyer. "Hopefully it's a good sign for the future."

It wasn't just the weather that was sunnier this Cannes.

The market also bounced back, with U.S. distributors in particular opening their checkbooks for finished films and foreign buyers finding ample pre-buy offerings.

The $20 million price tag for Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, which sold worldwide rights to Focus Features/Universal, was one of the biggest deals of the market. But Sony Pictures Classics set a record by plunking down $6 million for U.S. rights to the James Vanderbilt-helmed Truth — one of the most ever paid by the specialty label (the film chronicles the lead up to CBS News anchor Dan Rather’s resignation in 2004). Robert Redford plays Rather and Cate Blanchett stars as his producer Mary Mapes.

“We had multiple offers, but [Sony Picture Classics' co-presidents] Tom [Bernard] and Michael [Barker] were very persistent and passionate,” said Brett Ratner, whose RatPac Entertainment produced and financed Truth with Echo Lake.

Two films sold for $4 million apiece for U.S. rights: the Miles Teller boxing pic Bleed for This (to Open Road) and the Colin Firth-starrer Genius (to Lionsgate, which also teamed with Roadside to pick up the Matthew McConaughey-starrer The Sea of Trees). Other notable titles to move include the Tom Hanks drama A Hologram for the King (to Lionsgate, Roadside and Saban Films) and Patricia Arquette’s follow-up to her Oscar win The Wannabe (to eOne). 



On the international side, foreign mini-majors found plenty to please them among the pre-buy titles on offer. Sierra/Affinity enjoyed a banner market, quickly selling out of its slate of new films across the globe, including a multi-territory pact with Universal Pictures International for Charlize Theron spy-thriller The Coldest City. Bill Block's new sales shingle Block Entertainment shot out of the gate in its first Cannes market, selling out most major territories on its R-rated comedy Mad Moms, which stars Leslie Mann. And EuropaCorp's sci-fi epic Valerian — rumored to have a mega $180 million budget — closed territory after territory, with most going to EuropaCorp's regular distribution partners, including Fundamental Films, which will pay up to $50 million for Chinese rights to the film, which Luc Besson will direct and stars Dane DeHaan.

“We were really surprised at how strong Cannes was this year because two weeks ago, it looked like it was going to be dead,” said Andreas Klein, CEO of Splendid Film, which picked up four titles, including SND's What Happened to Monday? and Liam Neeson-starrer A Willing Patriot from Sierra/Affinity. “It marked a real turnaround from the past three markets, which were really slow. I'm hoping it's a positive sign for the future.”

The only complaints this year came from mid-level buyers and sellers, who noted that anything not obviously commercial with A-list casts was hard to sell and risky to release, making deals few and far between.

Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.

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