German Distributors Report Cannes Buying Spree

Constantin, Kinowelt, Wild Bunch and Concorde buy big at 2011 Market.

COLOGNE, Germany – Europe’s biggest theatrical market bounced back, and how, this year as German distributors big and small went on a feeding frenzy, snatching up almost every available big name title on offer at the Cannes film market.

StudioCanal subsidiary Kinowelt set its stake to be one of Germany’s leading independents with the multi-million dollar deal for FilmNation’s The Brothers Grimm: Snow White starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins as well as action thriller Vehicle 19 starring Paul Walker from German/U.K. outfit K5. Kinowelt also picked Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison biopic Living in a Material World from Exclusive and thriller The Last Photograph from director Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) which has Christian Bale and Sean Penn in talks to star. Photograph is a co-production between StudioCanal and Joel Silver’s Dark Castle.

“The big projects are finally back and sellers are putting more emphasis on the quality of the screenplays,” said Kinowelt CEO Wolfgang Braun. “When the package together with actors and directors is right, we go for it.”

Another big buyer in Cannes was Wild Bunch Germany, which outbit competitors to secure one of the hottest pre-sale titles at the Cannes market: the Meryl Streep/Tommy Lee Jones marriage counsel dramedy Great Hope Springs from Lionsgate International. David Frankel is on board to direct with Steve Carell attached to play the marriage counselor. Wild Bunch also secured German rights in Cannes to StudioCanal's Brit sci-fi teen auctioneer Attack The Block and period thriller The Awakening; to Dixie Theatrical’s revenge drama Julia X 3D starring Valerie Azlynn, Kevin Sorbo and Ving Rhames as well as to Stephen Frears' gambling drama Lay The Favorite starring Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Joshua Jackson which Wild Bunch themselves are selling worldwide.

But it was Constantin, which last year lost its long-held title as Germany’s number one indie, which really pulled out the checkbook. In addition to Sierra/Affinity’s big budget sci-fi feature Ender’s Game and Jason Statham’s action vehicle Parker, Constantin loaded up on 3D titles, snatching IM Global’s Enchanted Kingdom 3D and Hurricane 3D as well as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D from Nu Image. This is in addition to Constantin’s in-house 3D slate, which includes three Paul W.S. Anderson-helmed titles: The Three Musketeers, Resident Evil 5 and period disaster epic Pompeii as well as Reinhard Kloss’ 3D CGI take on the classic Tarzan.

In the more traditional 2D realm, Constantin grabbed Inferno’s Freelancers starring Robert DeNiro, Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent as well as Havana Heat with Samuel L. Jackson and Jean-Claude Van Damme from Tayrona Entertainment.

“We never come to Cannes with a set budget, we’re opportunity buyers and this year the opportunities were there,” said Constantin film and TV head Martin Moszkowicz. “We had done basically all our deals by day one.”

Tele-Munchen Group’s distribution arm Concorde will be doing its best to challenge Constantin with a Cannes-stocked slate that runs the gambit from Inferno’s Host, the film adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer novel starring Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) to Francois Ozon’s latest Dans La Maison from Wild Bunch which stars Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini and Emmanuelle Seigner.

Concorde also just signed an output deal with David Linde’s new production shingle Lava Bear, giving them all German rights to around 10 features over the next three years and extended their agreement with Summit Entertainment which will include the last two films in the Twilight franchise.  

Universum, which is owned by media giant Bertelsmann, had a relatively quiet Cannes market this year but the group has several big films coming up including Nicholas Winding Refn's noir racer Drive and Oliver Megaton's Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana.

Few last year expected Berlin-based Senator to even be around for Cannes 2011 but the box office success of The King’s Speech gave the financially-strapped distributor some breathing room. More could come from last week’s announcement that Dutch investment group Sapinda Holding, run by German investor Lars Windhorst, has obtained an option to acquire 21.2 percent of the company by Dec. 20. The option would include the 17 percent of Senator held by company CEO Helge Sasse.

Senator was back to its big buying ways in Cannes. It secured theatrical rights to two high-profile titles bought by Telepool for Germany: Lakeshore’s surfer film Mavericks directed by Curtis Hanson and starring Gerard Butler and Mike Newell’s Charles Dickens adaptation Great Expectations with Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.

Senator also grabbed Tanya Wexler's Victorian romantic comedy Hysteria, starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal; French comedy Intouchables and Cannes Festival closer Beloved from Christophe Honore for the German market.

Veteran art house distrib Prokino also had a busy Cannes, picking up Nanni Moretti’s Vatican satire We Have a Pope from Fandango Portobello Sales; Lasse Hallstrom’s Swedish thriller The Hypnotist starring Mikael Persbrandt (In A Better World) from Svensk and Persepolis director Marjane Satrapi’s hotly anticipated follow up:
Chicken With Plums starring Isabella Rossellini, Mathieu Amalric, and Chiara Mastroianni from sales outfit Celluloid Dreams.

On the smaller side, Pandastorm Pictures grabbed all German and Austrian rights for Director Fortnight crowd-pleaser The Fairy from MK2 and German language rights from Intandem Films for the British espionage thriller The Veteran. Pandastorm also took Finnish comedy Lapland Odyssey from Yellow Affair and biotech thriller Errors Of The Human Body from Instinctive Film.

Berlin-based Delphi, another distributor enjoying a new lease on life thanks to white knight investors, snatched up two high profile French titles in Cannes: the audience pleaser The Artist, which won director/star Michel Hazanavicius Cannes’ Best Actor prize and Wild Bunch’s remake of 60s comedy classic The War of the Buttons.

Other German buys in Cannes include James Wan’s supernatural thriller Specter which has Nicole Kidman attached to star and which Koch has picked up for German release from IM Global;  Elle Driver's French hijacking thriller The Assault, which Atlas Films picked up; Pathe’s No One Lives from director Ryuhei Kitamura and Olivier Baroux’s The Tuche Family which went to Munich-based Tiberius and Icelandic teen drama Jitters from director Baldvin Zopboniasson, which Salzgeber will bow in Germany.