Berlin market sales set in slow-mo

Gap between AFM, EFM too short for companies

This year’s European Film Market is well and truly over, and all that’s left is to tot up the score.

With the exception of a handful of companies such as Summit, Focus and Wild Bunch, who reported intense deal-making and huge swathes of sales, the general verdict among sellers was that the mart was slow and steady, with the emphasis on slow.

Buyers were equally unimpressed.

“I bought three films this year, but last year I bought nine,” said Guy Shani of Israel’s Shani Films.

Consensus was that, with Christmas in the way, the gap between the American Film Market in November and Berlin in early February is just a bit too short for sales companies to come up with a large array of sizzling new product for the EFM.

Ideally, sales companies like to send out fully-cast scripts at least a couple of weeks before a market, close the major territory pre-sales in advance and arrive at Berlin with just the rest of world to clean up.

But this year, many companies were struggling to announce key elements in the first couple of days of the EFM, which inevitably meant buyers were slower to respond.

It’s significant that the companies that really sold well at Berlin, such as Summit and Focus, had their slates set several weeks in advance and did not announce new pics in the run-up to Berlin.

Indeed, it was a conscious strategy by Focus Intl. prexy Alison Thompson to hold back “Doomsday” and “In Bruges” for sale at Berlin, when she could have started pre-selling both as early as the AFM.

Among the late flurry announced as sellers left Berlin, Mandate Films confirmed widespread deals on its Anne Hathaway thriller “Passenger,” including sales to Metropolitan in France, Toshiba in Japan, Planeta in Spain and Universum/RTL in Germany.

At the end of a relatively busy market for U.S. deals, gay and lesbian specialist Wolfe picked up Italian Panorama entry “Riparo,” and Samuel Goldwyn bought “Priceless” from Wild Bunch.

GreeneStreet sold the Aaron Eckhart comedy “Bill” and “Gary the Tennis Coach” to Sandrew Metronome in Scandinavia, Luxor in Russia, Korea Screen in South Korea and Village Roadshow in Greece, among other deals. Telepool picked up “Bill” for Germany and Optimum bought “Gary” for the U.K.

It also sold “Unknown,” starring Greg Kinnear and Jim Caviezel, to Ascot Elite in Germany, Force in Australia, Alfa in Argentina and Blanco & Travieso in Venezuela.

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