French indies pounce on U.S. pix

Metropolitan, Wild Bunch, Mars go on Cannes spree

PARIS — Gallic distribs Metropolitan Filmexport, Wild Bunch and Mars pre-bought some of the bigger-budgeted, high-profile U.S. projects shopped at the Cannes Film Market.

Samuel and Victor Hadida’s Paris-based Metropolitan, a top purveyor of U.S. pics in Gaul, pre-bought “The Hunger Games” sequel “Catching Fire” and the “Dirty Dancing” remake from Lionsgate/Summit.

It also nabbed two hot tickets from Megan Ellison’s production, financing and sales outfit Panorama: David O. Russell’s “American Bullshit,” with Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper, and “Foxcatcher,” Bennett Miller’s follow-up to “Moneyball,” starring Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell and Channing Tatum.

Metropolitan also won a bidding war for IM Global-repped Lee Daniels’ “The Butler.”

Wild Bunch Distribution, headed by Jean-Philippe Tirel, scored the Weinstein Co.’s “August: Osage County,” Spike Jonze’s untitled project and Scott Stewart’s supernatural thriller “Dark Skies.”

American indie cinema not only made a big comeback in Cannes’ Official Selection but also at the market, which was packed with strong U.S. product with topnotch talent.

Repped by IM Global’s Octane, “Dark Skies” is produced by Jason Blum through his Blumhouse Prods., which worked with Wild Bunch Distribution on “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious.”

“August,” helmed by John Wells and based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, stars Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. Pic will start shooting this fall. Jonze’s untitled romance, now in pre-production, toplines Rooney Mara, Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix. Wild Bunch also acquired Directors’ Fortnight players: Chilean Pablo Larrain’s “No,” winner of the Art Cinema prize, and Rodney Ascher’s Sundance-preeming “Room 237,” a doc exploring theories about the hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

“No,” based on true events, stars Gael Garcia Bernal as an ad man who ousted Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from power in 1988 thanks to an upbeat ad campaign.

Stephane Celerier’s Mars Distribution pre-bought Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love,” Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land” from Focus Features and Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” from Kinology.

Mars will release “Rome,” starring Allen, Penelope Cruz and Jesse Eisenberg, in July. “Promised Land,” now shooting, is penned by its stars, John Krasinski and Matt Damon. “Spring Breakers,” which stars James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, sold to more than 20 territories at Cannes. Kinology will soon close a U.S. deal.

The highly competitive French market is one the few for which distribs still engage in bidding wars over titles. In 2011, Metropolitan, Mars and Wild Bunch were France’s top three indie distribs, driven in part by pics such as “The Ides of March,” “Midnight in Paris” and “The King’s Speech,” respectively.

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