United States

Star power marks slates

Perhaps it’s the optimism inherent in the American character — or the new administration’s emphasis on hope — but U.S. sellers and buyers are fairly bullish on Berlin.

Some are not taking as many staff, and many have revamped game plans post-AFM. After years of product glut, some see the global credit crunch as a kind of natural selection: Play smart or get out.

“Star-driven product is great for DVD,” says GK Films’ president of international, Lisa Wilson. At EFM, it’s debuting Johnny Depp starrer “The Rum Diary”; Mel Gibson topliner “Edge of Darkness” and “Young Victoria” (with an all-star cast) are also on its slate.

“People want to buy bigger movies, special movies, big names,” says Stephanie Denton, senior VP of worldwide distribution at Bold Films. “It’s smarter to produce (fewer) films with a stronger marketing angle, both international and domestic.”

The DVD market drop is still a big worry, and Wilson notes that alternative forms of distribution — VOD, Internet — are not mature enough to make up for that cratering market.

Bold Films’ “The Hole 3D” is selling the 3-D concept wrapped up in a thriller directed by Joe Dante. It will be showing footage to buyers for the first time at EFM.

Helen Lee Kim, president of Mandate Intl., looks at her diverse slate and sees that the recipe for success lies in that diversity. “We’re trying to be extremely strategic in the (projects) we make,” she says. It’s added “More Than a Game,” a doc starring NBA superstar LeBron James, to its EFM roster, plus martial-arts actioner “Warrior.”

“AFM provided all of us with a clear message regarding the state of the world economy and how our industry is affected by it,” says Steve Bickel, president, international, of the Film Dept., whose Gerard Butler/Jamie Foxx topliner “Law Abiding Citizen” fits into the high-quality, star-driven mold and has sold to Germany’s Constantin and the U.K.’s Momentum.

“To suggest that entertainment is recession-proof really isn’t correct,” adds Bickel. “Many of the films sold even six months ago would not find distribution homes today. What is true is that distributors still need product to fill their release schedules.”

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