Festival de Cannes presales picking up

Sierra shows 'Money'; TMG, Medusa have 'Passengers'

CANNES -- Focus Features and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group sliced and diced rights to Joe Wright's Saoirse Ronan-starring teenage assassin thriller "Hanna" as high-profile presales during Cannes began to pick up.

The deal for "Hanna," which also stars Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana, sees hefty cooperation between the two studios with Focus retaining rights in North America, the U.K., Australia/New Zealand, Greece, Israel, Middle East, and CIS, while SPWAG acquires territories in continental Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Focus president of international sales and distribution Alison Thompson and senior vp international sales Peter Kujawski said Sony was "quick to recognize ("Hanna's") international potential."

SPE president of worldwide affairs Peter Schlessel is quick to agree. "Audiences around the world will love this movie," he said.

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The agreement is another sign that the international releasing arms of the majors are upping their game with more aggressive acquisitions.

"Certain studios have always been active in international acquisitions. It's not competitive, but complementary," said Sierra Pictures' Nick Meyer." It's good for the business because the business needs more customers."

Sierra's slate, which includes films from Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Lakeshore and Incentive, found buyers sparking to titles like the Katherine Heigl crime thriller "One for the Money" and David R. Ellis' "Shark Night 3D."

Filling slates as the studios scale back on output is a major driver for the international distributors looking to fill release schedules in a well running dry.

"To be honest, with the home studios producing fewer, bigger films, the international divisions have slots to fill. They can be happy for every title they get their hands on," one veteran Euro buyer said.

But the mini-majors and key indie players are holding their own as Cannes entered its second week, with ink drying on a series of big ticket buys.

Morgan Creek saw Italian auteur Gabriele Muccino's $90 million sci-fi romance "Passengers," featuring Keanu Reeves, jet off to Medusa in Italy and to Herbert Kloiber's Tele Munchen (TMG) in Germany.

TMG also dug deep for German rights to IM Global's actioner "Safe" starring Jason Statham and Lakeshore's "One for the Money."

Elsewhere Lionsgate U.K. picked up local rights to Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut "Coriolanus," starring Gerard Butler, and David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" with Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley.

Munich-based SquareOne Entertainment bounced for "Recoil" and teetered on "The Ledge," picking up the Mark Steven Johnson-directed actioner and the Terrance Howard/Liv Tyler-topped drama from Foresight. SquareOne also took German rights for SXSW hit "Monsters."

"There are something like 10 solid commercial titles [here] with name directors and financing in place," said SquareOne president Al Munteanu. "It's a clear sign that the indie market is recovering."

German buyer Universum snatched the high concept action thriller "Medallion" starring Clive Owen from Lisa Wilson's Parle Films and German rights to Susanne Bier's upcoming Danish-language drama "In a Better World" from TrustNordisk, a deal the Munich-based group did without commercial TV partner RTL.

Gregg Kilday contributed to this report.