Niche player taps into commercial fare with success

For a second year running, Hong Kong and Holland-based Fortissimo Films is back on the Lido in force.

The sales and financing company has Tran Anh Hung’s “Norwegian Wood,” which world preems in competition today.

Another three Fortissimo movies — Michele Placido’s “Vallanzasca,” Takashi Shimizu’s “Shock Labyrinth 3D” and “Reign of Assassins” from Su Chao-pin and John Woo — screen out of competition.

Fortissmo’s Lido lineup shows its new range.

It comes as the company is reaping the fruit of two strategies: a move into ever-more mainstream fare, and strategic alliances with key players in and outside Asia.

“Assassins” has now inked major territory pre-sales for France (Metropolitan Film Export), Germany (Wild Bunch Germany), Latin America (HBO Latin America) and Korea (Boogee Younghwa).

Major territory deals add to a Stateside sale to Weinstein Co. and Lionsgate for the U.K.

” ‘Assassins’ is a commercial martial arts action film and epic period piece with an underlying love story,” said Werner.

“Wood,” directed by 1995 Golden Lion winner Tran (“Cyclo”), has “commercial and arthouse potential,” Werner said.

“Wood” has also attracted distributors in key territories, counting Germamy’s Pandora Films, Spain’s Vertigo, Lumiere in Benelux and CP Digital for the CIS and HBO for Latin America among its 15 territories sold.

Set in Tokyo’s turbulent late 1960s, “Wood” will roll out internationally in late 2010 and first quarter 2011.

“Vallanzasca” is the first film to hit the market from Fox Intl. Prods,. however, Fortissimo has international rights.

Fortissimo has sold the pic to Artificial Eye in the U.K. and to Taiwan’s Filmware. Pic bows in Italy late 2010.

Italy’s Movie On has taken Italian rights to “Labyrinth,” from Shimizu, who heads Venice’s Persol 3D jury this year.

Over the last year, Fortissimo has pacted with Singapore’s Media Development Authority to jointly develop, finance and distribute a film slate.

And it’s inked with Korean giant CJ Entertainment on co-production and library sales to Korea. CJ also signed a first-look deal for Fortissimo titles.

“There are increasing opportunities for different kinds of strategic alliances to be put together that are not just a buy-sell relationship but have other components,” Werner told Variety.

Fortissimo turns 20 in 2011. It has over 250 feature titles in its library.

“There’s a brand, and opportunities to go to territories to explore relationships” said Werner.

And Fortissimo is aiming to pick up several new titles — “one very commercial film, a more traditional arthouse title and a genre movie.”

But it’s not abandoning the niche biz, Werner said, citing the only film Fortissimo picked up at Sundance, “Winter’s Bone,” which Ascot Elite has acquired for Germany, adding to extensive international sales. Released by Roadside Attractions in the U.S., “Bone” has cumed $5.5 million in 12 weeks.

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