Virtual Cannes Deals Memo: Day 4

Orion Pictures
'Bill & Ted Face the Music'

MGM jams with 'Bill & Ted' worldwide and studios circle Will Smith starrer 'Emancipation' as the majors make their presence felt at the Virtual Cannes Market on day four.

As the Virtual Cannes Market heads into its final days, the majors have begun to flex their monetary muscle, with MGM closing a deal for remaining international territories on Endeavor Content's hotly anticipated Bill & Ted sequel and several studios vying for the Will Smith/Antoine Fuqua escaped slave actioner Emancipation, which is expected to close a high eight-figure worldwide deal before Virtual Cannes wraps up.

The spotlight on day four has shifted to the majors, but smaller indies continue to do brisk business and there is no sign of a slowdown as Virtual Cannes heads for the finish line.

MGM picked up all remaining worldwide rights, excluding China, for Bill & Ted Face the Music from Endeavor. The third film in the slacker time-travel comedy franchise — starring Alex Winter as Bill and Keanu Reeves as Ted — is set for a domestic bow via United Artists Releasing on Aug. 14.

MGM had earlier nabbed multiple international territories including Germany, Latin America and the Middle East for Bill & Ted. At Virtual Cannes, the studio closed on all remaining countries still up for grabs, among them France, Italy, Spain and South Korea.

The plot of the film has William "Bill" S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan living mundane, middle-aged lives, having failed to fulfill their destiny and create a song that will save all life in the universe. When a visitor from the future warns them they are on a deadline, the pair band together with their families, old friends and famous musicians to try and finish the task before it's too late. Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) directs.

Several studios and the major streamers are also chasing Emancipation, the film package that brings together Will Smith and Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua in a Willam N. Collage-scripted action thriller based about a runaway slave.

MGM, Lionsgate, Universal and Warner Bros., along with Apple, are believed to be bidding for worldwide rights to the project, which CAA Media Finance is selling for the U.S. and Glen Basner's FilmNation is handling internationally. The combination of Smith and Fuqua, together with the uncanny timing of the film in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests, has made Emancipation the hottest title at Virtual Cannes.

The price tag for the global rights to the feature, which sees Smith play Peter, a runaway slave who has to outwit slave hunters as he travels through the swamps of Louisiana to freedom in the North, is believed to be $75 million plus.

In other domestic news, Saban Films closed a North American deal for John Berardo's horror crime-thriller Initiation with XYZ Films and CAA Media Finance. Initially planned as a midnight screening at SXSW, the feature stars Lochlyn Munro, Isabella Gomez and Jon Huertas and is inspired by Berardo's short film Dembanger, a chiller about the perils of posting on social media. XYZ Films is selling the title internationally at the Virtual Cannes Market.

Action-adventure tale Tomiris, about a legendary sixth-century warlord queen and her troops of female warriors, has won over international buyers, with distributors across Europe and Asia jumping about the epic drama from director Akan Satayev.

Arclight Films closed deals with France (SND Films), Italy (Blue Swan), Spain (Art Mood), Romania (Program 4 Media), CIS (Paradise/MGN) and Turkey (Siyah Bayez Movies) for Tomiris at the Virtual Cannes Market, which runs through Friday, June 26. Asian deals for Tomiris include with AT Entertainment for Japan, Gulf Film for Middle East, Challan for South Korea and Shaw for Singapore.

Kazakhstan actress Almira Tursyn stars as Queen Tomiris, who, together with her female warriors, united divided nomadic tribes to create a force capable of repelling the Persian army. Well Go USA has U.S. rights to the sword-and-sandals epic.