The going rate

Estimated prices for all rights to theatrical films in overseas markets.

Experts in international movie sales say nothing substantial has happened since May's Festival de Cannes to alter the standing of the U.S. independent distribution community as it prepares for the 27th annual American Film Market. Sellers are approaching this year's bazaar with "hopeful apprehension," believing that an absence of negative news sets the stage for better business opportunities.

But the market for indie films has not grown a great deal during the past 12 months, and sales prices, except for minor adjustments in a few markets, essentially have remained stable. Low-budget product, with the possible exception of art house fare, has little or no chance to receive theatrical exposure overseas, winding up mostly on DVD or cable television.

More adventuresome U.S. indie players -- those that can secure production funding and studio-supported domestic releases for higher-budgeted, name-value product -- frequently set up a business plan for each project that aims to gross a specific percentage of its production budget in each foreign territory. In general, the U.K. is expected to yield 10% of a film's budget; Germany, 10%-15%; France, 8%; Italy, 6%-8%; Japan, 10%; and Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe combined, about 7%.

But all independent distributors, regardless of the size of their offerings, are confronted by a surge in local-language productions that has reduced each nation's need for U.S. movies to complete their theatrical and TV slates. On the heartening side is the blossoming of Russia and Eastern Europe, where better prices can be fetched if sales can be made, but that is countered by the ongoing difficulty experienced by U.S. indies when attempting to close deals in Japan and other highly selective key markets.

The price ranges listed below, which are for all rights to feature films, do not have the endorsement of any organization and are meant to serve as a broad guide for launching negotiations. Distribution consultant and former AFMA chairman William Shields, Compliance Consulting president Rob Aft and Imagination Worldwide chairman and CEO Pierre David assisted in this analysis.