Revamped MIFED sees steady business

Five-day timeframe accelerates dealmaking

MILAN — The 69th Mifed (Nov. 3 to 7) appears to have taken the heat out of the embryonic campaign for a fall American Film Market by putting on a competent show this year.

The experiment of opening the Fiera Milano up for premiere screenings a day before the market started was a success.

The cramped five-day span of the market itself did leave some sellers unhappy with their screening slots, but it also created an accelerated tempo for dealmaking, which came as a welcome relief to sellers after the painful slog of Cannes and the AFM earlier this year.

And some good movies screened.

Mifed can hardly claim credit for the strong response to the premieres of “The Life of David Gale” and “Adaptation.” from Intermedia, “The Hours” and “Chicago” from Miramax, or the footage from Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” (Miramax), Francois Ozon’s “The Swimming Pool” (Celluloid Dreams) and Robert Altman’s “The Company” (Capitol) — but this still sets the mood.

Of course, whether those films are worth the prices asked or paid for them is another matter. The two Intermedia titles are still unsold in key territories, and despite buzz from U.S. buyers on the Ozon pic, no one had jumped at the $2.2 million asking price by market close.

Focus Features did manage the rare feat of selling a major package to Germany, with Constantin picking up “21 Grams,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Lost in Translation.”

Indeed, there were signs of life among German buyers, with Capitol striking separate German TV and theatrical/video deals for “The Gathering.”

“The German buyers are being quite cautious, but it’s not like the last two markets when they were obliterated. They are definitely starting to emerge again,” Barclay says.

Capitol also closed deals on “The Company” with Medusa in Italy, Svensk in Scandinavia, Pathe and Momentum together in the U.K., Village Roadshow in Australia, K2/SPO in Japan and Metropolitan in France, plus a swathe of smaller territories.

Although sales announcements were in short supply, that was as much because the hustle and bustle of meetings didn’t let up long enough to reveal deals. But there were indicators of solid trading.

Senator said it sold out most major international territories on the Sam Raimi-produced “Boogeyman.”

Mark Damon’s MDP Worldwide closed most of international on two so-called “passion projects” combining name stars with budgets south of $10 million: “11.14,” toplining Hilary Swank, Rachael Leigh Cook and Patrick Swayze; and Charlize Theron’s “Monster.”

Fortissimo closed major territories on Wong Kar-Wai’s awaited “2046,” “Ken Park,” Party Monster” and “Bollywood, Hollywood,” and announced an output deal for Benelux with top Dutch indie distribber A-Film Distribution/Fu-Works.

Splendid Pictures confirmed sales on the $44 million Richard Gere thriller “Without Apparent Motive” to Spain (Manga), Italy (Eagle), Benelux (Belga) and Latin America (Gussi). It was also closing deals on the Edward Norton/Naomi Watts starrer “The Painted Veil.”

Market grumbles

There still does not appear to be a consensus among buyers or sellers, however, about whether moving the AFM to fall is a good idea. It would seem that in these tough times that everyone would have more important things to worry about — like whether they are still going to be in business by next year’s AFM.

The boycott of the London Screenings was hard enough to organize, even though all the big sales companies were unanimous that it had to be done. But it could be even more damaging to the already fragile indie film business if, come next November, half the big companies go to Milan and half to Santa Monica.

Summit execs, for example, argue for a two-market year — Cannes in May, AFM in the fall. But Rick Sands, COO of Miramax, says a clear, “No way.” He is already pledging to be back in Milan next year. Having two markets would be a false economy, he argues. Sure, it would cost less, but distribs would buy less too, and the sales execs would just have to spend much more time on the road visiting buyers in their home territories.

In any case, Mifed won’t just roll over and shut down. Market director Elena Lloyd is already promising to extend the event by an extra day next year, in response to demand from sellers for more screening time.

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