Buyers’ Mifed has sellers leaving early

Many delegates departed before market's end

MILAN — The slowest Mifed in memory started grinding to a halt Tuesday, a full three days before the market is officially due to end.

Many delegates left Tuesday, and few sales companies expect to be working beyond today.

Asked how it was going, one junior exec at a major sales company simply rolled his eyes and flipped over his delegate’s badge to reveal the words “Help me!” scrawled on the back.

“We’ve had a good run of seller’s markets, and now it’s a buyer’s market,” Alliance Atlantis Pictures Intl. prexy Mark Horowitz said ruefully. “If I hear the words ‘straight distribution’ one more time, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

That’s a reference to reluctance of distribs to pony up minimum guarantees, offering instead to release films for a fee.

“This is so over. I’m out of here,” one veteran British sales agent said.

And referring to the former UA Films prexy who is now growing vines Down Under, she added, “Wendy Palmer had the right idea. I’m emigrating to New Zealand.”

But at least no one was blaming Mifed itself for the slowdown.

Many causes

The events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath have coincided with the recession, the after-effects of the bursting Neuer Markt bubble and the phantom Hollywood strikes to create a slump in business activity for indie film companies that is likely to continue well into next year.

“I’m looking beyond the American Film Market (in February) to Cannes,” Horowitz said.

At least Alliance looks likely to have the boost of three pics in the May fest’s selection — Neil Jordan’s “Double Down,” Lynne Ramsay’s “Morvern Callar” and the latest Atom Egoyan project.

One reason foreign distribs aren’t buying is a backlog of hugely expensive pics that they bought in the past couple of years and have yet to release.

For distribs who picked up “Lord of the Rings,” “Spy Game,” “Ali,” “K-19” or “Gangs of New York” — and there are some that took more than one — it’s a massive financial exposure that has yet to start recouping.

The flip side is that if any or all of those films hit big when they open over the next few months, a tsunami of cash will roll through the indie film business again.

Among the few deals reported in the past couple of days, Lakeshore sold “Domestic Disturbance” to RAI Cinema for Italy, Filmax for Spain, Pandasia for all Asia excluding Japan, Egmont for Scandinavia and Nu Vision for South Africa.

Winchester sold “Runaway Jane” to Eagle Pictures for Italy and Egmont for Scandinavia, among other territories.

The absent Good Machine Intl. sold “Buffalo Soldiers” to Village Roadshow for Australia. It reported a rare German sale to Tobis of Pedro Almodovar’s “Talk to Her,” which also sold to Gaga in Japan, and 20th Century Fox for Latin America and Australia.

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