Three films heating up at AFM

'Paranormal Activity' helmer's follow-up among hot titles

More AFM news

SANTA MONICA -- As the annual American Film Market winds down, a trio of English-language pics have caught the eye of U.S. buyers.

Fittingly, given Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Group's purchase last year of the Peter Jackson-produced sci-fi tale "District 9," all three come in defined genres.

One of the hot titles is Oren Peli's "Area 51," the director's sci-fi follow-up to his "Paranormal Activity" -- only with an alien invasion instead of a home invasion.

Several studios have been thought to be interested in the Blumhouse/Room 101 production, including Lionsgate and Sony. During the weekend, though, word surfaced throughout Santa Monica that Paramount, which released "Paranormal" but maintained publicly that it was not negotiating for "Area," was in the mix to acquire the title.

Also, the supernatural thriller "Afterlife" screened Saturday for buyers. Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo's pic, starring Liam Neeson and Christina Ricci, attracted interest for its cast and commercial premise. It centers on a funeral director who might be intent on helping a woman on the brink of death.

Finally, U.S. interest remained strong in "Streetdance 3D," a film about street dancing. The Vertigo Films production, which is being sold worldwide by Protagonist Pictures and repped by CAA in the U.S., is among the first non-U.S. live-action 3D titles, and buyer attention is fueled by interest in all things 3D.

"It's hard to say that anything is a sure bet, but if you have movies with defined audiences, you're going to do a lot better with prospective distributors than with a one-off that's harder to describe to them," one sales agent said.

That's doubly true at AFM, where the halls of Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel ring out with genre success -- think Summit's "New Moon" and Nu Image/Millennium's "Conan."

And with "District 9" a huge breakout for Sony, buyers are even more keen on top-tier genre fare.

"No one wants to spend a lot of money at the moment, but no one wants to be the executive who has to answer for why he missed the next 'District 9,' " one buyer said.