Cannes 2012: Soggy Weather Doesn't Dampen Market Sales

Cannes rain H 2012

Both established sales giants and a slew of new players sign deals as Marche du Film stays hot.

Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion 3D version of the classic fairy tale Pinocchio has sparked interest from studios and at least one equity financier. Inferno Entertainment, which is producing and selling the picture, has opted to hold back inking deal memos while it irons out the best way to bankroll the production.

Inferno’s move is indicative of the changing market landscape this year, as a raft of new equity investors slosh up and down the Croisette looking for deals to strike.

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Wind and rain may have lashed Cannes, soaking suits and forcing buyers off the beaches, but it didn’t put a damper on business.
“I think what we’ve found is that rain is good for business,” said Maura Ford, head of U.K.-based sales company 7&7. “People concentrate more on the business and less on the rose. And anyway, we’re from the U.K., so what’s a little rain? Buck up.”

Business was solid all around for studios and independents alike.

“We’ve done the business we expected to do, but some territories didn’t turn out to be as we thought they would be,” said Focus Features International co-president Alison Thompson. She added that offers from buyers in recession-hit Italy were stronger than expected and that Japan, long a white space on the international sales map, was back in force.

One U.K.-based sales agent, who sold out across his slate, said Japan was “slow to sign” but “at least they were making offers -- a change from recent markets.”

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Focus is all but sold out on Gus van Sant’s Promised Land, which stars Matt Damon as a gas company executive who arrives in a small town intending to tap its natural resources. Another strong seller for Focus was the London-set thriller Closed Circuit, produced by Working Title, which also closed for most of the world.

In addition to the established marquee names such as IM Global, FilmNation, Exclusive and Sierra/Affinity, this year’s Marche du Film saw a flood of new sales outfits trying -- and in most cases succeeding -- to make their mark.

Mister Smith Entertainment, the international sales venture launched by former Summit International co-founder David Garrett and German production giant Constantin Film, sold out its brace of debuting products: teen fantasy title The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, starring Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower, which is being set up as a potential franchise, and 3096 Days, the true-life story of Austrian kidnapping victim Natascha Kampusch. And Canadian-owned eOne International ramped up its sales operations, reporting several deals including for the Matt Shakman-directed thriller Cut Bank, starring Armie Hammer.

While the sheer quantity of titles being hawked at the market suggested a return to the heady pre-bust days of a few years past, the quality of projects on offer delivered in spades.

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“We had a really busy time here last year, and at that time, I felt that the marketplace had room for more volume, and certainly this year’s Cannes has delivered in terms of volume and actually quality as well,” said Alex Walton, president of international sales and distribution at Exclusive. “We brought a bigger slate, and it has easily matched expectations.”

Walton said Exclusive was close to selling out on several titles, including the action comedy Agent: Century 21, starring Cameron Diaz, and A Walk Among Tombstones with Liam Neeson. Exclusive announced one new title relatively late in the market: Eli Roth’s horror thriller The Green Inferno, which also generated strong interest.

Such midmarket announcements were rare this year, however, as Cannes’ late start -- the festival was delayed a week to accommodate the French elections -- meant sales agents had more time to firm up new projects.

Some of the most active buyers this year were the international arms of the Hollywood studios, which use the marketplace to source further titles for their global pipelines.

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions picked up multiple territories, including German-speaking Europe and Australia, for IM Global’s found-footage drama Ends of the Earth, which Derek Lee and Clif Prowse will co-direct. Universal Pictures International took a slew of territories for two Good Universe titles: Spike Lee’s remake of Old Boy, starring Josh Brolin, and the Jon Turteltaub-directed comedy Last Vegas, starring Robert De Niro.

Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.