Brit Buyers Not Sure What To Expect

A dearth of advance information from sellers aiming to whet distribs’ appetites before the American Film Market may portend another subdued, low-key trading session, but British buyers are heading for L.A. in an optimistic mood.

They rate AFM as a traditionally fecund affair, and report they’re reasonably hungry for A grade theatrical titles and for homevideo fillers.

“We’ve always seen it as the main market, and we’re always expecting good things to come out of it,” said Guild Films’ Peter Alarik.

Alarik noted advance word on new product unfurling at AFM was “pretty quiet,” but said he’d be calling on the top 10 indies including Carolco (Guild’s biggest supplier), Morgan Creek Intl., Cinergi, Largo Entertainment, Nelson/Castle Rock and Majestic Films.

Feeding new vid label

Together with colleague Thomas Hedman, Alarik will be hunting for theatrical fare to release in the U.K. from mid-1992, and for low-budget action items for their newly launched homevid label, Capital.

Palace Pictures is sending three execs – co-chairman Nik Powell, distrib chief Daniel Battsek and acquisitions director Robert Jones – to scout for product to put into the release pipeline from this fall through next spring.

“We have a hit list of [ potential] titles,” said Battsek. “The AFM is always very well organized, it’s easy to see what you want to see, and it’s useful talking to all the [ key] Americans in their home territory.”

Watching those prices

An unexpectedly severe slump in the rental homevid business in the second half of last year, and the shaving of U.K. satellite rights for indie product in the wake of the Sky-BSB merger, have concentrated the minds of distribs on buying judiciously.

Palace’s readiness to take out the checkbook will “depend on the prices. We will look at films if the prices make sense,” said Battsek.

First Independent Films, the remonikered Vestron U.K. bought last year by broadcaster HTV, firmly supports AFM. “You have to be there,” said m.d. Michael Myers, while noting, “The initial signs are that there may not be much good new product.”

Myers will be seeking mainstream theatrical titles of the caliber of Nelson’s “City Slickers” and Glinwood Films’ British pic “Let Him Have It,” and fillers for his homevid label. More specialized distribs such as Hobo Films customarily look to the L.A. market as a consistent source of distinctive pictures.

“It’s always been a very good market, although I wonder whether attendance will be affected by travel worries [ during the gulf war] and by the change to the Santa Monica location,” said Hobo’s John Hogarth.

“Judging by the advance information, the product appears to be a bit ordinary, but something might pop up.” Hogarth added. “We don’t need all that much [ new fare] at the moment; we can be a bit relaxed.”

Fall trek unwelcome

At this point there appears to be little enthusiasm among British distribs about the prospect of trekking to L.A. again for the new fall AFM.

But one who won’t balk at that is First Independent’s Myers, who said: “I like going to L.A. two or three times a year to talk to suppliers, not necessarily to attend markets.” He said he’d be happy to skip Mifed in favor of the fall AFM.

Other U.K. companies dispatching execs to AFM are BSkyB, Mainline, Medusa and Braveworld.

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