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Berlinale’s big bang

Mart maintains rapid pace on int'l pic pacts

BERLIN — As the Berlin bazaar passed its midpoint Tuesday, the energetic pace of screenings, meetings and dealmaking showed no signs of flagging.

With distributors attending en masse from as far afield as Japan and Australia, the Berlinale now looks firmly established as the year’s third major film market behind Cannes and the AFM.

Japanese buyers may complain that the snow-covered German capital is too cold and that the restaurants and shopping cannot compare with those of in Milan, site of the now-defunct Mifed. Nonetheless, they came to Berlin in force, including a contingent of 18 execs from Gaga.

Indeed, sales agents griped that the unexpectedly heavy presence of Far Eastern buyers transformed the fest from a relaxed experience into one of relentless back-to-back meetings.

Only the U.S. buyers seemed underwhelmed by the goods on offer.

Summit reported strong interest from several major territories in its Rowan Atkinson comedy “Keeping Mum,” with pre-sales set to close by the end of the fest. “It’s been a very good market,” said Summit’s David Garrett. The company also finalized the few unsold territories on “Inside Deep Throat,” notably Switzerland.

Thierry Wase-Bailey’s new sales shingle Celsius Entertainment struck a Japanese pre-sale on “Paris, je t’aime,” a movie made up of 20 six-minute segs about love in the Gallic capital, each to be helmed by a different world-renowned director.

Sellers new to Berlin were upbeat about their experience, reporting fruitful meetings, relatively low overhead and healthy sales. Even those arthouse sales companies that have always traded heavily at Berlin, such as Denmark’s Trust Film Sales, said that business was improved by the greater numbers of distribs in attendance from all major territories.

Despite not having any films in the official selection, Trust reported bustling business on Thomas Vinterberg’s “Dear Wendy” (sold to Metrodome in the U.K. and Legend in Germany), Swedish pic “Dalecarlians” (sold to Theodore in Italy) and “Strings” (sold to Passworld in Italy).

Italy was a particularly hot territory, with Domenico Procacci’s Fandango acquiring doc “The Take,” about unemployed Argentinian workers taking over the country’s idle factories, from Celluloid Dreams.

Competition was strong among U.K. buyers, with Icon picking up “Perfect Creatures” from Arclight; Momentum and its Spanish sister company Aurum teaming to acquire “Just Friends” from Inferno; and Tartan taking a slew of pics, including “The Devil and Daniel Johnston.”

Capitol closed deals in the U.K., Germany and Scandinavia for its Aishwarya Rai/Dylan McDermott romance “The Mistress of Spices,” with other territories under negotiation.

Miramax topper Harvey Weinstein hit town, but word around the marketplace is that his new post-Disney venture is likely to go via Buena Vista Intl. for foreign distribution rather than sell off territories piecemeal.

Italy’s Istituto Luce came to Berlin to shop its adaptation of Marguerite Yourcenar’s bestseller “Memoirs of Hadrian,” to be directed by John Boorman, who was also in tow.

The $30 million biopic of the Roman emperor is aiming for a June start at Morocco’s new CLA Studios, with RAI Cinema and Massimo Pacilio’s Movieweb also backing the project, although the greenlight depends on raising international co-financing.

(Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.)

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