“Remakes are really the buzzword at AFM. Remakes out of Asian markets are really hot right now, particularly with the rights to ‘The Host’ having sold for such a good price. I think there’s also a lot of interest in French catalog titles along with German titles. You will see more of it due to the increase in local productions,” said QED Intl. sales topper Kim Fox.
Interest in remakes marks a return to an old AFM favorite. Three and four years back, screening films and optioning remake rights on completed movies was the way to go. Business seemed to tail off as Hollywood studios woke up and became markedly more familiar with the Asian suppliers whose pics were being brokered to them through third parties and as trade in remake rights became a year-round affair. Market also went softer as remake projects went into the script development stage and buyers became wary of buying additional titles on hope value only.
Recent months have changed that. “Remakes are really doing the business at the U.S. B.O. You only need to look at ‘The Grudge,’ ‘Grudge 2’ and ‘The Departed’ to see that,” said one North American buyer. “The Departed,” which has yet to be released in many key territories, has already grossed $140 million worldwide. “The Lake House,” a remake of a Korean meller, also worked a charm with $115 million worldwide to date.
In recent weeks the Weinstein Co. and Universal have closed deals on remakes of Thai actioner “13” and Korean monster pic “The Host.” Warner is understood to be looking at a sequel to “The Departed,” which was based on the first two parts of the Hong Kong trilogy “Infernal Affairs.”
Many Asian producers are coming to AFM with remake packages in place to offer English-language buyers or are pushing ahead with the English-language remakes themselves in the hope that a studio or other global distrib will board the project.
Celestial Pictures announced this week that it will go ahead with “Five Deadly Venoms” and “Flying Guillotine,” while Japanese shingle Stylejam comes to the market announcing that it is selling remake rights to Japanese and territory rights — if anyone is interested — to fantasy drama “The Seven Days of Assistant Manager Tsubikayama.”
Revived interest is also spurring extension of some Asian franchises. Applause Pictures and the Ruddy Morgan Organization have greenlit a third part to “The Eye,” a franchise which sees one “Eye” remake in the works through Cruise/Wagner and Lionsgate and a second in development at New Line and Gold Circle.
Horror pictures, another AFM staple, seem to be holding their own in a soft market.
“Horror, comedy and director-driven titles are what work for the U.K.,” said Optimum Releasing CEO Will Clarke.
“AFM has become like a video market, and in that case, the video staples of horror and action always emerge strongest of the bunch,” one disappointed seller said.
But not all horror is equal. First, there seems a sense that sophisticated adult auds are already a touch tired of the Japanese and Korean horror wave.
“Horror has really flooded the market, and now you are seeing a flight to quality. Pictures that stand above the rest will be picked up, but a lot will remain unsold. Generally, you are seeing a market filled with mid-level budget projects, so buyers are really able to go for the top tier of that,” said QED’s Fox.
But horror fatigue has not affected all geographies the same. In the less-developed markets of Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, horror still does good business. Sellers with European, Thai or Filipino product, with pics that seem new and do not command big ticket prices, seem perfectly content.