Brazil’s Imovision Dials Up Wild Bunch (EXCLUSIVE)

Blue Is The Warmest Color Review

Top ‘quality’ distributor also buys from Films Distribution

RIO DE JANEIRO – Confirming the strong lure of Wild Bunch’s 2013 sales slate for top major-market arthouse/”quality” buyers, Brazil’s Imovision has pacted with Wild Bunch on Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall,” Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Two Days, One Night,” and Liv Ullman’s “Miss Julie,” among at least nine upcoming titles.

All deals were concluded before the Rio Festival where Jean Thomas Bernardini’s distribution house screens 11 titles, among them fest opener “Amazonia” and Hilton Lacerda’s hot Premiere Brazil contender “Tatuagem.”

Written by Paul Laverty and shooting in Ireland from mid-summer, “Hall” is set in 1932 as Irish communist leader James Gralton reopens the dance hall he built in 1921, a place where young people come to learn, dream and, above all, have fun. Sixxteen Films, Element Pictures, Why Not Prods. and Wild Bunch produce.

In post, “Two Days” stars Marion Cotillard as a 30-year-old woman who seeks out collegues over two days at a night begging them to give up her bonuses so that she can keep her job. The Dardennes’ label Les Films du Fleuve lead-produces with France’s Archipel and Italy’s Bim.

Setting August Strindberg’s celebrated theater drama in Ireland, “”Miss Julie” toplines Jessica Chastain as the daughter of a wealthy landowner who seduces her father’s valet (Colin Farrell).

Also from Wild Bunch, Imovision will distribute “Nicholas on Holiday,” a nostalgic take on French ‘50s childhood, which reteams the producer (Fidelite Films), director (Laurent Tirard), international sales agent (Wild Bunch), French distributor (Wild Bunch Distribution) and name cast (Kad Merad, Valerie Lemercier) of “Little Nicholas.”

Other Imovision Wild Bunch titles: Abel Ferrara’s “Welcome To New York,” with Gerard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset and inspired by the disgrace of former IMF topper Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Jean-Luc Godard’s “Goodbye to Language”; Raphael Frydman’s “WTF,” a fictional narrative inspired by real-life Internet prankster-superstar Remi Gaillard; and “White Bird in a Blizzard,” from U.S. indie icon helmer Greg Araki, produced by Why Not Prods.

Bernardini will bow Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Adele: Chapter 1 & 2” in Brazil after its screens in Buenos Aires in the run-up to Ventana Sur, he said.

This year’s buys also include Bertrand Bonello’s Films Distribution-sold and Mandarin-produced “Saint Laurent,” with Gaspar Ulliel playing Yves Saint Laurent and Lea Seydoux as flamboyant designer and one-time muse, Loulou de la Falaise. Imovision has also tapped second chance in a lifetime drama “Satisfactions,” sold by Versatile Films, with Catherine Deneuve.

Imovision works a grossly under-screened Brazilian market with just 2,517 screens and 701 theaters in 2012. Most are multiplexes. U.S. movies share stood at 77.5% last year.

But Brazil trends often reflect a larger picture for non-popcorn movie distribution worldwide.

Imovision is often described as an “arthous” distributor. But the label sits uneasily as Imovision has diversified and moved towards the mainstream. Its Rio line-up includes not only Hilton Lacerda’s arty “Tatuagem,” but fest opener “Amazonia,” a 3D family adventure movie..

Imovision movies’ punched 1.0 million spectators in 2012. That made it the seventh biggest indie distributor in Brazil over 2009-12, a very creditable performance.

But that came at a price. Non-mainstream movie distribution is bedeviled by fast turn-around.

Imovision released 33 features in 2012 and has nearly 50 more still to open, “far too many,” Bernardini told Variety at the Rio Festival, which screens 11 of his movies.

Multiplexing and Brazil’s swelling middle-classes have boosted attendance for blockbuster and big Brazilian films, but not for what Bernardini calls “quality films.”

He added: “Education standards are still low in Brazil. People may have better their financial position but they want blockbusters, not difficult films,” the distributor said.

“Amour” sold a creditable 230,000 tix in Brazil. Most “quality” films are now playing to diminishing returns:

“Art movie used to gross 50,000 admissions quite often, now they sell 15,000-20,000 tickets,” Bernardini said.

Given its low screen-count, one future may well lie in online VOD. Current transactions on movies ate low, but at least they’re growing, he added.

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