U.S. shingles opt for the suite life

Weinstein Co.'s once-dominant EFM booth is no more

BERLIN -- Harvey and Bob have given up that corner office. The Weinsteins Co.'s massive first floor booth used to dominate the European Film Market. It was a proud, some might say cocky, assertion of TWC's ambitions to own the indie business in the way Miramax did in the 1990s.

That booth is gone now. In its place at the Martin Gropius Bau are no less than eight companies, including EFM vets Bleiberg Entertainment and Hollywood Classics, alongside more regional sellers such as Al Arabia and the Croatian Audiovisual Center.

It's a trend seen across the market. Big U.S. sellers -- Focus and Summit are two other examples -- have pulled up stakes at the EFM and are doing business from the relative privacy of their suites at the Grand Hyatt.

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"I guess everyone has to watch their budgets, even the Weinsteins," said one German buyer who has picked up a number of TWC titles in the past. "They're not gone but they certainly don't have the presence they used to."

Hungaricom's booth last year was housed at the Marriott, this year it's in the Martin Grobius Bau. Exec Viktor Dudas says the void gave him a chance to move in. He's looking forward to the increased opportunities, though he also wonders that if the big companies like the Weinsteins are gone, will buyers leave as well?

"We've gotten some great interest so far but we'll see if that translates to more foot traffic," Dudas said.

TWC is quietly pushing two projects: "Scream 4" and "I Don't Know How She Does It," an adaptation of the Allison Pearson comic bestseller, which has Sarah Jessica Parker attached to star. With no finished titles to screen, and the pre-sales market still shaky, it's not surprising the Weinsteins are downsizing their Berlin presence.

"They don't need to be here at this point," one U.S. agent said.

Besides the economic crunch, which has spared no one, there's a shift in the balance of power among the so-called mini-majors.

"Before it used to be Miramax and New Line, that's it. They owned the market," a veteran East European buyer said. "Now you have all these new players like (ex TWC sales chief) Glen Basner's FilmNation, which have the same level of production and on-screen talent attached to their projects."

There's no denying the market has gotten a lot more crowded. In addition to U.S. groups like Lionsgate, Hyde Park, Summit et al, there are such continental giants as EuropaCorp. and StudioCanal fighting for a share.

Whoever emerges with the best deals coming out of Berlin, it's unlikely anyone will again be able to own the biz like the Weinsteins once did.

Looks like that corner office is going to stay empty for a while yet.

Borys Kit contributed to this report.