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Blighty’s regular shoppers hold steady

Recent falloff due to lack of available projects

LONDON — The U.K. is never going to be an easy place to pre-sell a movie, but at least its distribution scene is stable, which is the next best thing at a time when most other major territories are in turmoil.

There’s a solid core of indie distribs — Entertainment, Pathe, Momentum, Icon, Helkon SK and Optimum — that have built their businesses to last in unforgiving conditions. They don’t pay silly prices and they don’t get sucked into bidding wars, but they do buy regularly.

If there’s been any shortage of big-budget pre-sales to U.K. companies in the past few months, distribs say that’s more to do with a lack of available projects (owing to the uncertainty of the indie biz worldwide) than any reluctance on their side to part with their money.

“A lot of films that are supposedly ‘up for sale’ aren’t necessarily ready to be sold,” says Momentum managing director David Kosse. “People aren’t sure what they are doing with their films. Are they selling them now, are they going to a studio, are they waiting until later?”

Meanwhile U.K. distribs have been getting on with pre-buying local projects. The profusion of equity financing, whether from tax funds or the Film Council, has effectively driven down the price of U.K. rights — a distrib estimates a drop from 8%-10% to 5%-6%.

Booming box office and DVD sales are going some way to compensate for the indies’ perennial problem of negligible income from selling off broadcast rights.

The Film Council is also bolstering the prospects for specialized and British movies with funding to reduce P&A risk for distribs.

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