Let the deals begin

'Love' buy kicks off biz early on Croisette

CANNES — It may not open officially until today, but the Cannes Film Market swung into premature action Tuesday with buyers already crowding into screenings, and Momentum Pictures announcing the acquisition of U.K. and Spanish rights to Mike Newell’s “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

Momentum is the first foreign distrib to pre-buy the Newell project since Summit Entertainment picked it up for international sale a few weeks ago. New Line will release the pic in North America.

With many buyers arriving on the Croisette Monday night or Tuesday morning, Italian veteran Dino De Laurentiis seized the opportunity to premiere his three big productions — “Young Hannibal,” “The Last Legion” and “Guilty Pleasures” (aka “The Decameron”) — at back-to-back screenings Tuesday afternoon.

The Weinstein Co. already has North American rights to the trio, which were co-financed by TWC backer Tarak Ben Ammar. Ben Ammar was on hand with co-producer Martha De Laurentiis to greet distribs. Around 200 buyers attended the event, per reps for De Laurentiis.

Buyers report that the build-up to Cannes has been more frenetic than ever, with scores of scripts landing on their desks from leading sales agents in the past couple of weeks.

Summit and Focus have unveiled half a dozen fresh projects apiece. Distribs are also talking about a couple of big vampire pics: Mandate’s “30 Days of Night” and Lionsgate’s “Daybreakers.”

“I’m pretty encouraged as a buyer by the number of above-average projects,” commented Zygi Kamasa of Lionsgate U.K. “There are a lot of scripts with directors who’ve done a handful of movies, not just debut films by commercials directors.”

The U.K. in particular looks set to be highly competitive for acquisitions, following StudioCanal’s takeover of Optimum Releasing and Lionsgate’s purchase of Redbus. Asking prices are already reportedly going through the roof.

Sellers are setting up their offices earlier than ever. Fortissimo Film Sales set a new record this year by bringing its team down on Saturday to get the jump on the competition.

The Cannes party scene is also swinging into early action. Gotham-based GreeneStreet Intl. is boldly going when no sales agent has gone before by throwing its corporate cocktail this evening, even before the curtain has gone up on festival’s opening film “The Da Vinci Code.”

GreeneStreet execs said they wanted to find clear space for their event ahead of the crowded party schedule later in the week.

But for some, the hottest destination tonight will be the Majestic Hotel, where praisery DDA has arranged a big screen to broadcast the final of the European Champions League between Arsenal and Barcelona, the most important game in the European soccer season.

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