French Comedies Make The Running UniFrance
Courtesy Indie Sales

PARIS– “Full Speed,” “The New Kid,” “French Cuisine” and “Roommates Wanted” were among the French comedies that dominated the UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris, the annual Gallic film confab attended by French sales agents and some 500 foreign distributors.

Since “Welcome To The Sticks,” “Heartbreaker,” “The Intouchables” and “Serial (Bad) Weddings” and “Babysitting,” the Rendez-Vous has emerged as a hotspot for mainstream comedies, particularly completed ones. Unlike previous editions, this year’s screenings didn’t have a clear winner — instead, a string a diverse laffers – rather than one single pic – were well-received.

“The New Kid” and “French Cuisine” both screened at the market and have already seen healthy theatrical launches in France. Considering how volatile and competitive the theatrical market has become, the box office score of movies in their home turf has become a key factor for distributors.

Florent Siri’s “French Cuisine” (“Pension Complete”), with Franck Dubosc and Gérard Lanvin, turns on a chef who is obsessed with getting a Michelin star and has to face off his wife’s first husband. Repped by Studiocanal, “French Cuisine” has notched up €1.1 million ($1.2 million) on its first week in release in France from a Dec. 31 bow.

Screened as a trailer, pulsating family action comedy “Full Speed,” from Nicolas Benamou (“Babysitting”), Other Angle Pictures’ top Rendez-Vous title in terms of ongoing business, is closing Spain and Russia, having pre-sold to Germany (Wild Bunch Germany) and Benelux (Belga), reported Other Angle’s Olivier Albou.

Repped by Indie Sales, “The New Kid,” by up-and-coming actor-turned-director Rudi Rosenberg, fits into trend. A tender comedy about a tweener who starts at a new high school and has a hard time making friends, “The New Kid” is in the same vein as “La Famille Belier” or “The French Kissers,” “The New Kid” won the “New director Award” at San Sebastian and has been a sleeper hit in France where Mars Films released it on Dec. 23. Indie Sales showed the film at the Rendez-Vous and is in talks to close a flurry of territories.

Although it has not been released, “Roommates Wanted” proved a hot title at the Rendez-Vous as it’s been getting a positive word-of-mouth ahead of its April 20th roll-out — partly because it was selected at the Alpe d’Huez festival, a rising comedy festival, and won the jury prize. “Over the years, the Alpe d’Huez has gained a good reputation with movies like ‘Babysitting’ and “La Cage dorée,’ and European buyers are paying attention to what films get selected and win prizes,” said Charlotte Boucon, head of sales at SND.

Boucon added that buyers were more than even on the lookout for family movies and feel-good titles such as “Roomates Wanted.”

Gilles Renouard, deputy director of UniFrance, pointed out “European buyers flocked to these comedies at the UniFrance Rendez-Vous rather than in Berlin or Cannes because they’re not for the most part pure-play movies that will play at festivals.”

Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, co-founder of Films Distribution, concurred. “As the UniFrance Rendez-Vous is a European market, the movies that attract the most interest there are movies that can potentially work in Europe rather than in the U.S. and Asia — since we know that comedies travel well within Europe and seldom beyond,” said Brigaud-Robert.

Indeed, according to the UniFrance study French Film Genres, Gallic comedies were the top-selling movies abroad from 1995-2014. Local laffers repped 58% of all tickets sold to French films in Germany, 67% in Belgium and Luxembourg, 50% in Spain, 42% in Italy and 43% in Russia.

Other comedies that triggered interest from buyers include “Josephine, Pregnant & Fabulous” from TF1 and “The Roommates Party” from Other Angle and “A Mighty Team” from Other Angle.

A local hit, “The Roommates Party,” which turns on Parisian bourgeois who are forced to house immigrants, was picked up by Square One Germany. The pic opened on Dec. 23 and has grossed €6.2 million ($6.8 million) thru Jan. 17.

Meanwhile, the Gerard Depardieu-starrer, the soccer-themed “A Mighty Team” was acquired for Switzerland (Frenetic) and Benelux (Victory) while deals for Germany and Italy are in the works.

TF1 sold “Josephine, Pregnant & Fabulous” to Karma in Spain and has attracted interest on Cyril Gelblat’s “Dad in Training” with Manu Payet and Audrey Lamy.

In further Rendez-Vous business, Matteo Lovadina’s Reel Suspects has acquired international sales rights to Dutch drama “Out of Love,” the first feature of Paloma Aguilera Valdebenito. Charting a turbulent love affair between Varya (Naomi Velissariou) and Nikolai (Danil Vorobyev, “Eastern Boys”), “Out of Love”’s pick up comes in the run up to the 2016 Rotterdam Festival, where it screens in Bright future, a new talent focus.

Reel Suspects has also closed Vietnam on Hungarian Zoltan Miklosy’s “Manieggs,” a Hollywood action movie spoof , adding to sales announced earlier at the Rendesz-Vous to Scandinavia (Njuta Films), Russia and CIS (All Media Company), China (Lemon Tree) and South Korea (Alto Media).

Irreplaceable,” the third feature from Thomas Lilti (“Hippocrates”) with Francois Cluzet (“The Intouchables”) as an old-world country doctor, attracted strong Rendez-Vous heat, with acquisition interest from multiple buyers, Le Pacte’s intl. sales head Camille Neel said Monday, saying he will now close deals on the drama. Neel also said some buyers were interested in picking up remake rights to “Irreplaceable.”

The market can also allow sales agents to either pre-sell movies or wrap up deals on titles that are in the last stretch of their theatrical/festivals roll-out. For instance, Gaumont is in talks to close a German deal on Christian Vincent’s “Courted” with Fabrice Luchini which won two nods at Venice; while Bac has pre-sold “A Bun in the Oven,” a high-concept feel-good comedy toplining Karin Viard (“Lolo”) as a middle-aged mother faced with an unexpected pregnancy, to Benelux (Athena Films).

Carole Baraton, head of international sales at Wild Bunch, said the company did great business last year with Christian Clavier’s “Do Not Disturb,” which is the type of movies that can make an impact at this Paris market. “This year we have the new projects by Alain Guiraudie (“Staying Vertical”) and Raymond Depardon (“France”) which most distributors will want to look at during Berlin.”

Yet, even though the UniFrance Rendez-Vous is not typically a market where auteur projects pre-sell, some European buyers sometimes take the opportunity to position themselves on buzzed-about prestige films such as Asghar Farhadi’s untitled project, which is handled by Memento, in the run up to Berlin.

UniFrance, which aims to build the Rendez-Vous as a think-tank for French industryites, also hosted a panel with producers Charles Gillibert (“Mustang”), Matthieu Tarot (“Courted”), Sylvie Pialat (“Timbuktu”), Aton Soumache (“The Little Prince”) and Alain Sussfeld, the UGC topper, to brainstorm on ways to make movies that travel worldwide. Among the ideas and tips that came up were the necessity to shoot in the organic language of projects rather than opt for the English-language for commercial reasons, as well as the importance of translating scripts in English and having English subtitles as early as possible in order to facilitate pre-sales on French movies.

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