Cannes: Market Dealmaking as Varied as the Weather

Cannes Environmental Image Billboard - H 2013
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Cannes Environmental Image Billboard - H 2013

“It’s very challenging for buyers today when they come to Cannes and aren’t excited by the product. Throw in the weather, and it sucks the electricity out of the marketplace," says on veteran agent.

In terms of dealmaking, the Cannes market was as varied as the wild weather, with some sellers reporting a general slowdown and others touting numerous sales.

If moods were generally glum, it was because there wasn’t the same parade of big-budget projects flooding the Cannes pre-sales market as in the past two years (Cloud Atlas, Lone Survivor, Paranoia and The Mortal Instruments among them). Part of the issue is that international sales agents are all going after the same stars, making it harder to close deals in time for Cannes.

“It’s very challenging for buyers today when they come to Cannes and aren’t excited by the product,” says one veteran agent. “Throw in the weather, and it sucks the electricity out of the marketplace. We didn’t do a good enough job in exciting them.”

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The projects emerging as the favorites among foreign distributors included two Keanu Reeves projects: Brian Kirk’s romantic sci-fi epic Passengers, in which the actor stars opposite Reese Witherspoon as the captain of a spaceship, and Lionsgate and Thunder Road’s revenge action movie John Wick, in which the actor plays a former hit man.

Exclusive Media, which is handling international sales, did very well with the project, while CAA closed a deal with The Weinstein Co. Tuesday for U.S. rights. Exclusive Media’s Alex Walton, head of international sales, also showed buyers footage of Natalie Portman’s Western Jane Got a Gun, and is closing deals in available territories.

Tarsem Singh’s supernatural thriller Selfless starring Ryan Reynolds was universally embraced. Looper team Endgame Entertainment and FilmDistrict are co-producing and co-financing the film, which was sold in Cannes to foreign buyers by Glen Basner’s FilmNation. By the end of the weekend, Basner was sold out.

“We believe the marketplace is more discerning than ever,” says Basner.

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The Weinstein Co. wowed with Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, a biopic of artists Walter and Margaret Keane that stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. Burton came to Cannes to personally woo foreign distributors, as well as the media. Waltz, a member of the Cannes film festival jury this year, also participated.

Burton wasn’t the only top-flight director or star showing up at the market to promote their projects. Justin Timberlake, who has signed on to star in the Neil Bogart biopic Spinning Gold, held a brunch with distributors and co-hosted an evening fete with Foresight Unlimited, the film’s producer and financier.

During the festival, Foresight CEO Mark Damon inked a multiterritory deal with Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Group, sold numerous territories and is in the process of closing more. RCA Records is partnering on the film, so Sony’s film studio would be a natural fit to release Spinning Gold in the U.S. “The project has sold well because of Justin’s involvement and the fact that the major distributors want something that is unique and different,” says Damon.

Mister Smith Entertainment concluded a slew of sales for Mortal Instruments 2. And IM Global’s Stuart Ford reported brisk sales for Martin Scorsese’s Silence after the director met with buyers at the festival but was still dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on the paperwork.