The Cannes 2014 market will go down as one of the most contradictory in years.
Its lack of fully-packaged star-driven quality projects was a major talking point.
The larger question it raises is whether, when it comes to star vehicles at least, this year’s market pointed to a sales cycle glitch – with distributors buying again once inventories need filling – or marked a milestone in more fundamental changes to the ways the high-end international industry will have to do business.
Yet a plethora of movies, many more modestly-budgeted, sold to the U.S., making it probably the best performing market of 2014 Cannes.
Through the first half Cannes, a few big titles sizzled. Paramount shelled out $20 million for North America and China on Denis Villeneuve’s Amy Adams-starrer “Story of Your Life,” sold by FilmNation; Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions then closed the bulk of international.
Lionsgate Intl.’s big new titles, Juan Antonio Bayona’s “A Monster Calls” and “The Last Face” directed by Sean Penn, are reportedly selling out.
IM Global’s biggest seller was Jackie Chan actioner “Civilian,” with most of the world gone, said company topper Stuart Ford, who also rolled out “Forsaken,” from Jonas and Alfonso Cuaron.
Budgeted at a $120 million, Foresight Unlimited sci-fi thriller “Inversion” sold to six major territories and a slew of smaller territories.
Other high profile titles to nail deals include action-thrillers with clear theatrical potential such as Studiocanal’s “Bastille Day,” which Focus took for the U.S.,and Halle Berry starrer “Kidnap,” sold by Lotus Entertainment.
EOne Films Intl. pushed out Colin Firth starrer “Eye in the Sky.” Bloom’s Matthew McConaughey-starrer “Sea of Trees” sold most of the world, said Bloom founder Alex Walton, above right, with producer Ken Kao, left, director Gus Van Sant and McConaughey.
While big star vehicles were largely absent, U.S deals abounded.
The Weinstein Co. picked up “Sing Street,” then shelled out $5 million for Pierce Brosnan thriller “The Coup,” and $12 million for worldwide rights for “The Lion,” from “The King’s Speech” producing duo Iain Canning and Emile Sherman.
After a strong showing at Sundance, A24 continued its buying spree with Atom Egoyan’s “The Captive,” “Son of a Gun,” an Australian heist movie, and “The Room,” starring Brie Larson.
In contrast, the bigger more mature European markets face challenges, including Paybox Canal Plus’ buying strategy in France, which is affecting pricing, Russia’s weakened ruble, and Spain and Italy’s continued doldrums.
It is international’s high-end business that proved particularly preoccupying, however.
Reasons cited for the absence of big star vehicles cut multiple ways: The shift of stars and stars directors into TV; contracting DVD and TV sales; and indie distributors’ aversion to risk.
Fall-out seems inevitable. Sales-financing outfits already handle more development inhouse.
The pre-sales market isn’t dead; but, in order to get big projects greenlit, financiers will probably have to stump up more equity to compensate volatile pre-sales finance.
Those are large challenges for the market to digest. It now has a few months to do so before Toronto.
TOP PLAYERS’ TAKE ON THIS YEAR’S CANNES:
“Distributors wish there were more films available but it always comes back to the proposition: Do we bring something which compels them to act? If you look at the best-selling films at this market, I think you’ll see some really interesting creative choices and distributors stretching to get hose films because they are unique.” Glen Basner, FilmNation
“We’re seeing changes in Asia’s buying dynamic, Box office is growing. A flurry of freshly re-capitalized distributors is acquiring more movies than ever before. These days it feels like it’s easier to sell Japan than France and you can get bigger numbers from China than the U.K..
I’ve never known such as Asia-centric market for us.” Stuart Ford, IM Global.
“There are a lot of good movies this year,” said Sony Pictures Classics co-chief Michael Barker. “They may not be huge commercial prospects, but there are many marketable titles from all over the world.”
“The business is going through fundamental change. We can turn a blind eye, say next year’s going to be fine, book at table at for next year, but maybe it’s wiser to analyze what are the reasons for this change,” Martin Moszkowicz, Constantin
“I don’t know if it’s just our films or the U.S. market, but it’s a very good distribution market right now,” said Anna Marsh, at Studiocanal
“People respond very strongly to a model which, compared to pure sale agents, is that you are your own distributors, you have skin in the game, your building marketing campaigns for your partners, Harold van Lier, eOne Films Intl.
“It’s very important for companies to ensure that all your elements are in place. Ultimately the sophistication throughout the international market place has improved so much over the last 10 years.” Alex Walton, Bloom
“Buying habits will have to change too. The system of just AFM, Berlin and Cannes doesn’t really fit with the timing of when packages come together and talent availability. That disconnect is getting further and further apart.” Jim Seibel, Lotus Entertainment
“The bull’s eye is getting smaller on what international buyers want to take risk on. The result has been fewer movies getting made which, when combined with fewer packages showing up in the first half of the year from the agencies, poses the question of whether over the next 12 months, buyers are going to get more aggressive because they need to fill up slates, or are they simply going to reduce their slates,” Bill Johnson, Lotus Entertainment
“The biggest players at the market have been the studios. not that the independents didn’t buy. It’s not totally disappointing, but there was nothing really big driving the market into a state of excitement.” Ivan Boeing, Imagem.
“Our major problem is to attach talent to projects. Talent falls out much more easily then it ever used to. If it’s an independent, agents will question whether the talent is really in place and, rather than hang their clients up for a slot, they will be looking for something else, either TV or a studio movie,” Mark Damon, Foresight Unlimited.