Overall body count up, but transactions slow

As early as Wednesday afternoon the sounds in the Riviera had begun to indicate the end of the market. Packing tape, squeaky suitcase wheels and drilling interspersed the sotto voce sales pitches. By late Thursday the tones were even more hushed.

Senior execs had largely departed leaving acquisitions juniors to hold the fort or were preening and preparing themselves for auctions of a different kind at the amFAR charity evening.

Over the 10 days the overall body count was up, but transactions were sufficiently slow that even market organizers could not put much of a spin on the situation. “Some big deals are going down today. But overall, feedback from the market is that it’s somewhat sober,” Marche du Film director general Jerome Paillard, said.

His org reported that between 2003 and 2007 attendance grew by 40%, but that between last year and this it was only 2%. He also suggested that much of the recent growth was producers and projects looking for finance, rather than buyers and sellers.

That the sales market should have slowed and the North American deals were mostly small should have surprised nobody. Buyers and sellers from just about every territory have expressed signs of caution and growing selectivity during the last several markets. Cannes has been no different.

They are born of nervous demand side factors (indifferent theatrical performances, rising P&A costs, less supportive TV markets) and supply side glut. “Too much financing created an insane number of films and more for people to buy, but (ultimately) they pick and choose the movies they want to buy,” ICM exec Hal Sadoff said.

That’s not to say that everyone had a terrible time. Top class sales houses with strong product were able to do steady business, but bid battles and auctions were largely absent.

Gaga and Tohokushinsha put in competing bids for Pathe’s “Oceans,” the in-production aquatic feature documentary which is specialty fare in most territories, but mainstream theatrical in Japan. Gaga, which a couple of weeks back declared itself out of the acquisitions game, also grabbed Hyde Park’s “Street Fighter.” Other territories buying strongly were Korea, India, and the U.K., albeit at the small, specialty end of the range.

  • In a late Wednesday move IFC took North American rights on first time Brit helmer Steve McQueen’s “Hunger,” adding to the collection of five pics the Rainbow Media affiliate took home.

  • The Sundance Channel acquired US TV rights to Madonna’s AIDS doc “I Am Because We Are.”

  • U.K. distrib Axiom Films accessed all rights to Wim Wenders’ competish entry “Palermo Shooting.”

  • Matteo Garrone’s best-seller-based Neapolitan Mafia drama “Gomorrah” was sold by Fandango Portobello to eight territories with a U.S. sale deemed imminent. The hard-hitting rendition of the Naples criminal underworld went to Spain (Alta Classics), e (Film Trade), Israel (Orlando), Russia (Maywin Media), Portugal (Eco Films), Argentina (Alfa), Colombia (Babilla) and Scandinavia (Non Stop). Pic has clocked up almost $5 million at the Italo B.O., since bowing last weekend.

  • Myriad Pictures did a myriad deals on its recently wrapped thriller “Not Forgotten,” which stars Paz Vega and Simon Baker. It was sold to ZDF for Germany, Pionneer for The Philippines, P.T Swe Zhe Film for Malaysia, Luxor for CIS, Imagem for Brazil, Dproductions for Turkey, Equinoxe for Canada, Audiovisual for Greece, VTI for Former Yugoslavia, Vapet for the Czech Republic, P.T Amero for Indonesia, Myndform for Iceland, LNK for Portugal and Golden Village for Singapore.

  • Fortissimo sold Wong Kar-wai’s “Ashes of Time Redux” to Artificial Eye for the U.K., to ARP for France and to Sponge for South Korea. Pic had been widely sold at previous markets and only territories remaining open are Japan and Australia.

    Company also sold Filipino competition film “Serbis” by Brillante Mendoza scored sales deals in Benelux with Paradiso Entertainment, Singapore and Brunei with Cathay, Portugal with Lusomundo, Greece with Seven Films and in Israel with United King.

    Un Certain Regard title “Tokyo Sonata,” struck the right note with Lusomundo for Portugal, United King for Israel, Sponge for Korea, Cathay for Singapore, Palador for India and Trigon for Switzerland.

    “Song of Sparrows” sang to Films Sans Frontieres for France, Cinemien for Benelux, UTV for India, Lusomundo for Portugal, Seven for Greece, Action for Norway, Cathay for Singapore and Mongkol for Thailand.

  • The British Film Institute bought U.K. rights to Terence Davies’ “Of Time and the City” from HanWay Films.

  • French seller Funny Balloons sold Pablo Larrain’s competish entry “Tony Manero” to Network in the U.K., Ripley’s Film in Italy, Vendetta for Australia/New Zealand and Imovision in Brazil.

  • Bavaria sold “Moscow, Belgium” to Senator in Germany and Bac Films in France. The Teuton sales agent also sold “Buddenbrooks” and “Rabbit Without Ears” to South Korea’s Sejong Communications.

  • Elephant Eye Films sold “Planet B-Boy” to Mars Entertainment in Korea, Queen Films in Indonesia, Cineplex Films in Taiwan and Prime Pictures in the Middle East.

  • New blighty distribber, New Wave Films bought all U.K. rights on Jia Zhangke’s Competish title “24 City” from Gallic mini-major MK2.

  • France’s Kinology sold out the world, bar Japan, on the Petite Reine-produced “Public Enemy Number One” two-parter, with Vincent Cassel. U.S. deal will be announced next week, said Kinology head, Gregore Melin.

  • Films Distribution sold gay romancer “Baby Love” to Spain (Golem), Canada (Equinoxe) and Italy (Archibald), of major territories, off a market screening. Italo distribber Archibald, again, Brazil’s Imovision and Japan’s Bitter’s End all bought FD’s Competish player “Frontier of Dawn.”

  • Paris-based Wide Management sold “Her Name Is Sabine” to Italy’s Vivo Film, market title “Cold Blood” was picked up for Japan (Only Hearts); and “My Time Will Come,” which was acquired for the U.S. by Global Films.

  • Italian helmer Marco Tullio Giordana’s Monica Bellucci-starrer “Wild Blood,” about a pair of Fascist-era movie stars, was sold by Wild Bunch to Russia (Paradis)

  • Italo arthouse distribber Teodora Films picked up Isabelle Hupert-starrer “Home,” helmed by Ursula Meier, from Celluloid Dreams, and Thomas Vinterberg’s “When A Man Comes Home” from France’s Memento.

  • RAI Cinema finalized the acquisition of Tom Cruise-starrer “Valkyrie” from United Artists.

  • BIM Distribuzione bought Sean Penn-starrer “Milk” from Focus Features.

  • Giovanni di Clemente’s CDI acquired Jennifer Lynch’s “Surveillance” from Arclight.

(Archie Thomas, John Hopewell, Ali Jaafar, Nick Vivarelli, Nick Holdsworth, Elsa Bertet, Anne Thompson and Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.)

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