Buyers proceed with caution at Cannes

Pre-buy footage generating best reactions

In this jittery market, buyers are proceeding with caution, but some of the screenings generating the best reaction are those offering footage to entice pre-buys.

The tepid reception to fest opener Fernando Meirelles’ “Blindness,” which sold 42 territories at last year’s Cannes market, is making some nervous. On the other hand, they recall that Picturehouse grabbed its Oscar-winner “La Vie en Rose” off Cannes market footage.

But foreign fare is a tough sell to specialty numbers crunchers. No matter how commercial the film might be theatrically, there’s little upside on DVD and television.

Pre-buys require buyers to make advance bets on how a movie turns out — or take the chance that a rival will scoop up the film before it’s finished.

Buyers are upbeat on the Jaco van Dormael’s imaginative $45-million “Mr. Nobody,” starring Rhys Ifans in a futuristic tale. Kinology screened 18 minutes of footage of Jean-Francois Richet’s two-part $80-million French gangster biopic “Public Enemy Number One,” starring Vincent Cassell, which generated a boffo response at marketing screenings. Buyers also responded to “The Other Man,” Richard Eyre’s edgy relationship thriller, from ICM.

Also getting thumb’s-up from market advance looks are Odyssey’s ’60s mother-daughter tale “An Education,” from director Lone Scherfig, written by Nick Hornby and starring Rosamund Pike, Peter Saarsgard and Emma Thompson; Europa Corp.’s third “Transporter” installment, starring Jason Statham; and Jane Campion’s in production, $15-million John Keats drama “Bright Star,” starring Abbie Cornish, Paul Schneider and Kerry Fox, which Pathe is selling. Wild Bunch financed and is selling Darren Aronofsky’s $8 million “The Wrestler,” starring Mickey Rourke, who replaced Nicolas Cage when the film’s budget became too unwieldy.

Cinetic Media is selling Richard Linklater’s “Me & Orson Welles,” starring Zac Ephron as a teenager cast in a Welles’ Shakespeare production, and is teaming with 6 Sales to handle worldwide sales on Sally Potter’s fashion-house expose “Rage,” starring Jude Law, Judi Dench, Dianne Wiest, John Leguizamo and Steve Buscemi.

If buyers are too wary to step up in advance, sellers will just have to wait and see how well the films turn out.