Mood optimistic as AFM winds down

As the American Film Market started to wind down Monday, the mood was optimistic.

Several sales companies placed titles in multiple territories, while some buyers seemed less concerned about films not having U.S. distribution in place.

FilmNation did brisk business on Roger Donaldson-helmed revenge thriller “Hungry Rabbit Jumps,” starring Nicolas Cage and January Jones. Pic sold to territories including the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Latin America, Israel, South Korea and Scandinavia, though U.S. rights are still available.

While buyers might prefer the comfort of a film having U.S. distribution, the “Hungry” sales prove that a commercial title with a strong cast, director and a producer with a track record (Endgame) can still entice overseas buyers.

With fewer films being made and release slates for late next year and 2011 looking bare, many did not want to risk a studio swooping in and grabbing worldwide rights. A firm start date, Dec. 7 in New Orleans, also helped buyers feel more confident in the project.

Per Summit Intl. CEO Patrick Wachsberger the company “pretty much sold out” its AFM slate, including “Red,” “If I Stay,” “The Beaver” and “Source Code.”

“There are some strong and well-financed distributors who are extremely selective,” Wachsberger said. “There will be fewer movies made and the big guys need 12-15 movies a year. Their priority is to prebuy movies from companies who have U.S. distribution in place or from agents who can sell enough territories to get the movie made.”

“This time last year, the market was decimated. We were seeing buyers who had their credit facilities whipped away from them,” said Summit Intl. prexy David Garrett. “This year, they’re building the bricks back and fortifying their foundations.”

Inferno Ent. inked key territories including TF1 in France, RAI in Italy, Oz and Spain on Chuck Russell’s “Arabian Nights 3D.”

“Buyers came in strong for the right product,” said Inferno topper Bill Johnson. “We were lucky to be able to bring a tentpole title to the marketplace and the buyers responded.”

Among the foreign buyers who went on sprees was Scanbox Ent. CEO Mikael Modig, who picked up 12 titles at for Scandinavia.

“The Weinstein buying days are over, at least for the time being, during this economy,” said Strand co-prexy Marcus Hu. “It seems like a lot less sellers are attending, with whittled down staffing from years before. But the mood seems optimistic, people are buying films.”

Other U.S. buyers felt U.K. sales companies had particularly strong slates, including Exclusive Film Distribution. On the day before the market opened, Exclusive showed footage from Peter Weir’s “The Way Back,” starring Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, to the buyers who had picked up the film at an earlier market. Exclusive also showed off Hilary Swank thriller “The Resident.” Co-topper Guy East said the response had been so positive he’d been holed up in his Loews suite talking to buyers.

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