Price drops expected by local buyers

Italy’s movie market is proving relatively recession-proof with a slight 4% box office slump in 2008 following a banner 2007, which means buyers are going into the European Film Market on an upbeat note.

“After such a weak AFM, we are eager to see what’s out there,” says Stefano Massenzi, acquisitions exec for Lucky Red. The expanding indie distrib handles high-profile niche pics (Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler”) and more mainstream genre fare (Cameron Diaz starrer “The Box”).

That said, given the current cash crunch, Massenzi and other Italo buyers are expecting prices to drop, especially since local homevid revenues are shrinking due to piracy and sell-through price cuts, while potential new pipelines such as distribution on the Internet and VOD have yet to yield substantial revenue streams.

Italian sales houses are suffering from a scarcity of product, partly because local producers increasingly hawk their pics internationally via non-Italian companies and partly because the Berlin fest has chosen fewer Italo titles.

Adriana Chiesa Enterprises is bringing Monica Bellucci starrer “The Man Who Loved” to the EFM, while Intra Movies’ lineup includes Locarno immigration drama “Dark Sea,” by Italo first-timer Sandro Bondi, and Czech titles “Frankie, the Womanizer” and “Tobruk.”

The hottest Italian pic being hawked at the Berlin mart is Giuseppe Tornatore’s big-budget “Baaria,” which is being sold by Summit Intl.

Intra sales chief Jef Nuyts says the market for arthouse pics is getting tougher, but not really due to the economy.

“There are simply too many arthouse films. Europe produces some 900 features a year, and they are almost all arthouse pictures,” he laments. “The real problem isn’t the recession; it’s that market rules don’t apply to the arthouse sector, since all the movies continue to be subsidized.”

European sellers have long shielded themselves against currency fluctuations by doing most of their business in euros, even if that can mean having to lower their prices.

The new economic concern is VOD, which, as Nuyts puts it, “everybody is talking about, but nobody is paying for.

“There are a lot of requests for VOD rights, but nobody is offering money. They only offer a cut of grosses. But if they really believe in it, why don’t they offer a minimum guarantee?” he adds.

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