Berlin Boffo Despite U.S., Asian Pullouts

With fears over travel keeping down Yank attendance, the European Film Market (held alongside the Feb. 15 to 26 Berlin Film Festival) has become a forum of, by and for the Europeans.

One of the main focuses of the market has been the reemergence of a united Germany as the Continent’s largest market.

The best evidence of the revitalized nation was an SRO tour of the massive DEFA studios in former East German territory. Producers and potential investors crowded a fleet of buses to eyeball the ancient behemoth that launched the careers of Marlene Dietrich and Billy Wilder.

Philippe Maynial, sales head of French major Gaumont, says Berlin contacts are becoming increasingly important because Germany is considered a top-priority territory.

The mood is good and the Berlin market is boffo; a record number of more than 2,000 accredited participants have turned out to see close to 400 films.

Many attendees noted the absence of a strong Yank contingent had largely no effect on business. Larger American indies such as Samuel Goldwyn Co. and Avenue Pictures gave Berlin a wide berth and the absence of some buyers from such faraway territories as Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea dampened some sales hopes.

Dutch success a surprise

One of the surprises at the halfway point of market was the Dutch’s phenomenal biz with “How To Survive A Broken Heart,” sold to Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and the Scandinavians, including Iceland and Finland. Deals for Japan and France are reportedly close.

The South Koreans were another force at Berlin, making tv deals with the Yugos for “To The Limit” (Germany’s Igelfilm inked a contract with to handle pic’s future sales), and negotiating for Czech features.

Czechoslovakia was virtually the only Eastern European nation recording sales at the midpoint, with strong responses to Ceskoslovensko Filmexport’s catalog of tv specials on Czech history and politics from Britain’s BBC and Israel.

German company Rotavision Filmhandel topper Claus Ducker inked a major deal with Sovexport to handle rights to Sovexport’s entire catalog in Germany, Austria and German-speaking Italy, with a special agreement for Switzerland.

The new joint venture between Ducker and the Soviets will be dubbed Gerus-Medien, with the Germans controlling a 51% share and Sovexport holding 49%. Ducker says Moscow digs will be opened soon. Gerus-Medien plans to get involved in Soviet co-prods and exhibition in the USSR in addition to licensing theatrical, tv and vid rights to Sovexport’s catalog. Ducker says that he will also be negotiating with indie Soviet producers for film rights.

Filmverlag rep Antonio Exacoustos said Oscar hopeful “The Nasty Girl,” sold in most major territories, was getting bites from the Yugos, Greeks and French. “All our clients are here from Europe and from the U.S.,” said Exacoustos, “but we are missing our clients from Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.” Filmverlag’s Theo Hinz said that a third of his firm’s annual business was conducted in Berlin.

Market reaction is mixed to the disappearance of the press from the Cine Center. Opinion is split about 50-50 between those who are glad for more stand space and breathing room, while other buyers say they miss the word-of-mouth on screenings that they depended on the press to hear. Some gripe about making the trek out to the new press center while others rave about the building and quality of projection. Fest topper Beki Probst calls ’91 a year in transition, and is closely monitoring reactions.

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