Mifed lines up premieres

London Eye - Adam Dawtrey

The boycott of the London Screenings (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) seems to be just about holding firm, despite claims to the contrary by the event’s organizers. There are whispers about private screenings in London the week before Mifed (Nov. 3-7), but Variety has polled most of the leading Anglo-American sales companies and only one — HanWay — admits even to considering this. No buyers have yet been invited to any such events.

HanWay’s Thierry Wase-Bailey says he hasn’t decided whether to premiere Mike Barker’s “To Kill a King” in Mifed, or to stage a cast-and-crew screening in London. The company’s “Young Adam” won’t be ready anyway. Lions Gate Intl. did book a London slot for “The Rules of Attraction,” but now says it is handing over the screening to U.K. distrib Icon for a local press screening.

The organizers of the London Screenings claim to have 70 confirmed titles. But this turns out to be a reference to the Raindance Film Festival, which runs in parallel.

Sales companies with London offices say they won’t refuse to take meetings with any buyers who happen to be in town, but nor are they actively touting for them. A few L.A.-based sellers will pass through London for pre-Mifed meetings, but will not be screening. Buyers seem to be getting the message. A poll of Spanish distribs, for example, revealed none with plans to attend the London non-event.

All of which should make for a re-energized Mifed. New Line Intl. will present scenes from “The Two Towers” privately to the pic’s distribs. Miramax has booked the downtown Cinema Splendor for world premieres of “Chicago” and possibly “The Hours.” Intermedia will unveil “The Life of David Gale” and “Adaptation.” Focus Intl. will give a first outing to “They,” and Trust Film Sales is mulling a world preem for Thomas Vinterberg’s English-lingo debut “It’s All About Love.” IAC Films will preem “Secret Passage.”

But there’s confusion over Mifed’s plans to allow premiere screenings in the Fiera di Milano on Saturday, in advance of the market’s official opening Sunday. Many buyers remain unaware of the innovation, and so have not made plans to arrive in time. Capitol Films wanted to stage a downtown gala for Franco Zeffirelli’s “Callas Forever” Saturday night, but decided against it after realizing that half its key distribs would still be waiting for luggage at the airport. Most sellers may have abandoned London, but no one is confident that Mifed is going to function any better.

Capitol enjoys Altman’s ‘Company’

As it did with “Gosford Park,” Capitol Films pieced together the financing for Robert Altman’s next movie, “The Company,” set in the world of ballet. The sales company, run by co-owners Sharon Harel and Jane Barclay, has been cashflowing the project since the summer, while locking in a North American pre-sale to Sony Pictures Classics, and production coin from German film fund CP Medien. Capitol also is co-financing the $15 million production, and handling foreign sales.

“When Bob approached us at Cannes, we were delighted at the opportunity to renew our partnership,” Barclay says. “Ballet is a strange, sexy, hidden world, and the combination of Altman with this material is very compelling.” Neve Campbell and Malcolm McDowell will star, and shooting will take place at Chicago’s Joffrey ballet company, starting in October. It’s the first time since “The Player” and “Short Cuts” that Altman has returned to the same financier for back-to-back features.

Pathe takes a spin on ‘Magic Roundabout’

Pathe is preparing a movie version of the classic Anglo-French puppet TV series “The Magic Roundabout.” Pic is a perfect fit for a Gallic company with a U.K. base, since “The Magic Roundabout” was originally a French show (“La Manege Enchante,” created in 1963 by Serge Danot), which became a BBC hit when it was redubbed into English by Eric Thompson (father of Emma Thompson). The bolexbrothers, a Bristol-based animation outfit which specializes in mixing stop-motion with live-action, is working on the project with a French studio.

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