Co. reignites Lighthouse Entertainment label

CANNES — Fortissimo Film Sales, buoyed by a strong presence in this year’s Cannes lineup, is relaunching its “commercial” label Lighthouse Entertainment as part of its bid to diversify into more mainstream filmmaking.

First pic to be handled by the revamped Lighthouse will be “The Era of Vampires,” a $5 million f/x pic from leading Hong Kong producer Tsui Hark. The film will be directed by Welson Chin, one of Tsui’s newest proteges.

Tsui’s 25-year career as a producer, director, writer and actor spans many of Hong Kong’s biggest hits. He is best known internationally for his early collaborations with director John Woo.

Lighthouse will exec produce “Vampires,” due to shoot this summer. Deal is part of a wider move by Asian arthouse specialist Fortissimo, which is based in Amsterdam and Hong Kong, toward arranging financing for pics, as well as picking up completed movies.

Separately, Fortissimo is starting pre-sales at Cannes on “Eye,” directed by Thai twins Danny and Oxide Pang. Their last film, gangster movie “Bangkok Dangerous,” is being sold by Fortissimo, with U.S. and U.K. deals to be announced imminently.

“Eye” is the latest film from the new wave of young Thai filmmakers with a strong commercial sensibility who have come out of advertising and film schools in the U.S. and Japan.

Fortissimo has been aggressively promoting this movement as part of a move outside its arthouse niche. It is represented in Cannes’ Official Selection by Wisit Sasanatieng’s cowboy pic “Tears of the Black Tiger.”

Fortissimo has “Tiger” in Un Certain Regard, Hashiguchi Ryosuke’s “Hush!” in Directors Fortnight and Tsai Ming-liang’s “What Time Is It There?” and Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “Millennium Mambo” in Competition.

The company has sealed a slew of sales on its Cannes quartet in the past couple of weeks. “Tiger” has gone to 13 territories, including Pathe in the U.K., Bim in Italy, Nikkatsu in Japan and Dendy in Australia.

“Millennium Mambo” and “What Time Is It There?” have been sold sight unseen to five territories apiece, and “Hush!” has been sold to Benelux, Greece and Hong Kong.

This reflects the growing global profile of Asian cinema, which Fortissimo has played a leading role in creating.

Following the exit last year of co-founder Helen Loveridge, the company has gone through a restructuring. Co-chairman Wouter Barendrecht has been joined as a partner by veteran American exec Michael J. Werner, and Winnie Lau has been hired from Golden Harvest as director of international sales and distribution.

Werner brings commercial experience to match Barendrecht’s arthouse savvy.

Although best known as an Asian arthouse specialist, the company is embracing a wider range of filmmaking from Asia and beyond, notably Australia and the U.S.

Following its Venice fest success with Clara Law’s “The Goddess of 1967,” Fortissimo is handling several other Australian films, including “Walking on Water,” “La Spagnola” and Law’s next pic, “The Mechanical Bird.”

It also has been named sales agent for the library of half a dozen titles from New York indie producer Killer Films.

Nonetheless, Asian auteurs remain the bedrock of Fortissimo’s business. After Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love” grossed more than $15 million worldwide in the past year, the company is handling pre-sales on Wong’s “2046,” which shoots this summer.

Since the director works without a script, little is known about the subject, except that the title signifies 50 years after the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China.

Pic is being co-produced by Fortissimo’s regular French ally, Paradis/Ocean.

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