While the war in the Persian Gulf is making Yanks think twice about boarding planes to cross the Atlantic, the French contingent will be present at AFM, looking to take advantage of the dollar’s weakness.
“With the dollar down, this will be a real opportunity for us to pick up films at lower prices,” chuckled Jean Hernandez, buyer for the French distributor AAA.
The major companies which do business in francs are buzzing with anticipation, said a spokesperson at Gallic distriberry Pyramide Intl. Explained the same source, “We don’t think that we’ll be looking for more films or changing the number of films that we have already decided to buy. We’ll just be buying the same films at lower prices, which will be great for our year-end balance sheet, if not for the Americans.”
Bucks or francs?
The larger French companies which can take advantage of the ability to buy and sell in either dollars or francs, depending on the more favorable rate, are scrambling to switch over to francs to make a windfall off the dollar’s crashing value.
French distributor MK2’s John Kochman explained: “It’s smart money to sell and to buy in francs these days. People are moving fairly quickly to do this. We already have.”
Bertrand Faivre, a UGC buyer, downplays the importance of the dollar’s fall.
“We’ve seen numbers like these before: the dollar at 5 to 6 francs,” he said. “It is no new revelation, and it is certainly not on the basis of the rate of the dollar that we are going to suddenly decide to buy more films or videos at this late stage in the game.”
AFM is France’s yearly market for cashing in on the proven American boxoffice hits.
“It is no surprise,” explained Hernandez. “We go to AFM looking for sure bets, for the films that have been successful in the U.S. But the market is a strange monster; sometimes you can find some new talents, some good independent films.”
As in the past, the French want the American standards: comedies and action films that promise as much commercial success as possible.
One veteran buyer explained, “While we find small films at the other festivals, here we want something that can bring in big money.”
The risk lies in choosing the right film. “Some films don’t take over here. ‘Dick Tracy’ didn’t do well at all, regardless of all the hype,” said AAA’s Hernandez. “There’s a big difference in a film’s potential and what the public’s taste will be from year to year.”
If there are few surprises about the type of films the French distributors are looking for, that does not mean they are not looking and hoping for some surprising novelties.
According to Faivre, “We know essentially how much we need to buy, but the amount we buy could be changed depending on the quality that the Americans have to offer. Hopefully, the quality of the market will be better this year. Frankly, last year it was not too inspiring. If it is better, we can expand how much we are willing to buy.”
The French companies are keeping close-mouthed about the names of films that they are looking to buy and are equally hush-hush over the prices they expect to pay compared with last year.
“We try to follow the program that we have decided upon before we leave for L.A., but you really can’t tell what will fit your needs until you get to the market,” said Faivre.
Added Kochman, “Obviously, Cannes and AFM will show you what kind of year you will have.”