But They’re Coming To Market Yawning

French buyers are coming to Cannes with few expectations and even fewer illusions.

As usual, the general rule of thumb is “find the sleeper hit film at a reasonable price.”

The French will not be combing the Croisette for massive pickup deals. Instead, they will pick and choose carefully, if anything.

“I’ll come down a couple of days and take a look around to see if there isn’t something worth picking up” noted one top buyer who did not want his name quoted. He added, however, “I think it will be dull.”

Anita Carrondo, acquisition and production exec at French major UGC-PH (a subsid of UGC), says she is anxiously waiting to see what new product will be offered from Yank indies, especially Arnan Milchan’s Summit Group, Glenwood, Vision and Majestic. UGC-PH distributes about four to five foreign pics per year.

Said Didier Costet of small indie, Artedis, “last year we picked up nothing at Cannes but this year I could always hope for a miracle – a good film at a low price.” He noted that the going will be tough because prices are high and so are the risks for small indies.

Caution a keyword

“It’s very dangerous right now. You can get wiped out with one film. Many name films and directors are going for $1 million and more. For that you need to do about one million tickets in France to recoup.” That isn’t always guaranteed, he added.

Jean Hernandez, topper of AAA, concurred that French distribs must remain cautious given the softness of the boxoffice. It’s not that less tickets are being sold, but less films are benefiting. However, he commented that “there’s always someone who will pay the price for a hot and expensive film.”

Buyers believe that overall prices have both gone up and down. “The spread has widened,” said Christian Charret of CFC. “The smaller films are going for less while the bigger films are getting very expensive.”

Indeed, the community is abuzz with rumors that Odyssey’s “Christopher Columbus,” to be helmed by Ridley Scott, fetched more than $7 million. “Green Card” went for about $3 million. Both these films have superstar Gerard Depardieu. “When Harry Met Sally,” was on the block for more than $1 million.

Leonardo de la Fuente of Sideral notes, “American independents have understood for the most part that it’s difficult to ask a lot for a film. We saw that they were more reasonable at AFM. On the other hand, Asian companies are asking for outrageous prices.”

Confirms an acquisition exec at MK2, “Asian and African films are going for very high prices even if it’s a small production from an unknown director.”

Cannes will be the place to see the most amount of films, says an exec at MK2. She adds a comment, seconded by most buyers, “we pick up most of our flimsy outside of markets. We have either seen many of the films in competition or they already have a distributor. It’s in the sidebars that we can discover something.”

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