RIO DE JANEIRO – Despite a punishing near back-to-back run-on of Venice, Toronto, San Sebastian, a cohort of sales agents rolled into Rio for the 15th Rio de Janeiro Intl. Festival.
They weren’t just there for the caipirinhas. Among their ranks were companies which had led sales at Venice are are most assiduously courting distributors at venues beyond the big four markets of Berlin, Cannes, Toronto and the AFM: Voltage Pictures, Elle Driver, Films Distribution, HanWay, Content Media Corp. FiGa, Media Luna and, as part of a 13-exec strong British delegation, Altitude Film Ent., Embankment Films and Protagonist Pics.
“It’s good momentum to prepare the buyers for AFM. For those who are not attending AFM, you can be sure they’ll be in Ventana Sur,” Elle Driver’s Eva Diederix said about Rio Festival.
She added: “Of all Latin American countries, Brazil is the most active buyer in our case. Apart from Brazilian blockbusters and American films, there is still space for French films – we have a lot of them, films by Andre Techine, Benoit Jacquot, Emmanuelle Bercot, all sold – and foreign-language arthouse fare.”
Brazil is also the most accessible of building BRIC states. Despite an economy that has stalled over the last two years, in movie terms that growth shows little sign of abatting.
Brazil’s 2012 total theatrical B.O. was already up 15.7% vs. 2011, marking the eighth consecutive year of B.O. growth in Brazil. Drivers included hiked ticket prices – still low, at $4.8 in 2012, but up 10% vs. 2011, a sign of Brazilians’ larger disposable income – and screen construction, up 7% to 2,512, per Brazil’s Ancine film board.
Part powering the uptick, local movies’ market share stood at 19% through August, according to Brazilian trade publication Filme B. Few other national cinema in Latin America ever get into double figures.
“In 2013, Brazilian cinema will see an around 70% increase in admissions and gross. In the next few years, it will at least sustain that growth with a 20% market share,” Filme B editor Paulo Sergio Almeida predicted to Variety.
Rolling off an ever-stronger Fundo Setorial Audiovisual (FSA) subsidy fund, Ancine state agency coin for film and TV now stands at about an annual R$850 million ($384 million).
“Rio allows you to wrap up business from Toronto, prepare the AFM,” concurred HanWay’s Chiara Gelardin.
She added: “So much is great about Rio is people forging or consolidating relationships. You don’t necessarily go and sign deals on the spot, but it allows you to make a phone call in a few months time and build on your knowledge of what distributors are looking for.”
But business was done, announcements made. They cut multiple ways: Straight sales to Brazil and Latin America, co-production and sales rights acquisitions on Latin America pics, and institutional announcements, rolling off Brazil and Rio’s industry build.
Content sold Latin America rights on “Concussion” to Mexico’s Star Castle Distribution.
“Ivan and Ursula [Ruiz Bautista] have been great partners of ours, and we know they will do a fantastic job with ‘Concussion,’” Content’s Kevin Adege told Variety.
FiGa acquired sales rights to “A Man From a Crowd” on the eve of Rio. Imovision’s Jean Thomas Bernardini said he was fielding offers for sales rights to “Tattoo,” which scooped five prizes at Rio, including its coveted audience award.
“Instructions Not Included” producer Monica Lozano inked with Walkiria Barbosa’s Rio-based Total Filmes on a Mexican remake of Total’s smash-hit movie “If I Were You.” Total also announced it was teaming with Argentina’s BD Cine to co-produce Daniel Burman’s romcom “Love.com.”
Set up as a co-production between the U.K.’s Working Title and PeaPie Films, Germany’s Universal and Brazil’s O2 Filmes, Stephen Daldry’s “Trash” in the ninth week of its Rio shoot as the Festival unspooled.
In one of a fascinating strand of co-production panels, PeaPie’s Kris Thykier and O2 Filmes’ Andrea Barata Ribeiro talked an audience through the intricate co-production structure of “Trash” and the excitement of shooting in Brazil and making it a film’s home market.
More co-productions with Brazil look likely, working a two-way street.
“There’s a clear interest among international companies in co-producing with Brazil,” Barbosa said. “The Brazilian market is still small, compared to its potential. One future for the Brazilian industry is international.”
That is a true of TV as film. Galvanized by 2012 TV regs, which oblige Brazilian pay TV operators to air 3.5 hours of local programming a week, O2 Filmes’ Andrea Barata Ribeiro unveiled details of 13 TV series in development or phases of production, plus plans for its first big comedy, “Reveillon,” and an adaptation of Argentine comic strip “Mujeres Alteradas.”
RioFilme, the Rio City Hall-based film-TV investment fund, talked up a second new studio, an Audiovisual City of Sao Cristovao, near Rio’s New Port zone.
Meanwhile, the Rio Film Commission moved under the aegis of the City Hall and state and municipal authorities linked with Rio’s Inter-State Audiovisual Industry Union producers assn. (SICAV) to launch international promo org Films From Rio, which will debut at Berlin.
The PGA and SICAV signed a Memory of Understanding to step up collaborations.
Mexico’s Lemon Films revealed a sequel to “KM 31,” London’s Embargo Films “Plastic Fantastic,” a Brazil-set comedy, Brazil’s Dezenove and Passaro new slates for 2014, Coimbra and Argentina’s Marco Berger new projects.
A friendly presence at the Festival, Daldry confirmed he will god-father F&ME’s upcoming “Streetkids United II – The Road to Rio.”
Battling indie distributor Imovision confirmed recent pick-ups including nine titles, no less, from Wild Bunch.
The Rio Festival is a “platform for cinema in Brazil and Latin America,” said Ilda Santiago, who directs the festival with Barbosa.
“It’s about creating an environment where people can meet the right people, pursuing a broad variety of goals, without the pressure of a huge festival, do business, make money and have fun.”
If that’s the case, the 15th Rio Festival, which ran Sept. 26-Oct 11, looked for most industry execs attending like a mission accomplished.
Attendees ran a huge gamut, including Burman and William Harper (“Grey’s Anatomy”) who delivered screenwriting workshops and, in another conference highlight, MIT Media Lab’s Tod Machover and Alex McDowell at the USC Cinematic Art, who teamed to talk about the future of immersive entertainment.
“I have worked in Brazil for over 35 years and it is great to see that other people are finally discovering this market. In pure size, it represents an important audience for American filmmakers and the festival has showcased the market’s strengths for outside filmmakers,” said Rose Ganguzza, in Rio to present her latest production, “Kill Your Darlings.”
“It is always important to see how a film plays in a foreign venue because we as producers rely so much on the revenues from the foreign sales on any given project.”