Cannes market steady, unspectacular

Savvy sellers adjust to new demands

Cannes opened with a rush of acquisitions announcements, but as the fest heads into its final days, it’s been a steady, if unspectacular market.

It remains to be seen whether an anticipated flurry of late deals materializes.

The studios and their specialty labels are acquiring very little, but they’ve been more active in local production and in exploring more flexible mixed-financing formulas with overseas producers.

With the exception of IFC and Sony Classics, U.S. buyers have yet to ink deals on festival films.

As always, the right projects with the right elements and budget continue to sell, although there’s been a discernible shift among buyers to focus on pics that have a solid greenlight or those that are in production.

“Buyers want quality product,” says Orange Entertainment’s Mirjam Wertheim, who advises buyers around the globe, including Europe’s Indie Circle. “Those projects will always do well. There is an adjustment happening; prices and budgets need to come down, and some sellers or producers got that, and the others will soon as more of their product remains unsold in certain places.”

Sellers who priced product competitively have scored. Odd Lot Intl., for instance, inked multiple deals on Nicole Kidman drama “Rabbit Hole,” including Latin America (Sun Distribution).

Premium-level product, especially that which is already lensing, did robust business.

Summit Intl. inked deals on Sean Penn-Naomi Watts thriller “Fair Game,” “Twilight” followup “New Moon,” and romantic drama “Remember Me,” starring “Twilight’s” Rob Pattinson, in most of Europe and Asia.

Madeleine Stowe’s “Unbound Captives,” with Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz and Pattinson, is doing brisk business. Hyde Park presold to the U.K.’s Entertainment, among other teritories.

“The market’s concentrating around a reduced number of stronger buyers and sellers, companies with strong financial stability and theatrical and DVD operations and especally strong ties to television,” said Harold Van Lier, StudioCanal’s exec VP of international sales.

Deals were plentiful but not all sales companies found success. The international sales market has contracted dramatically, so sales agents and producers are moving away from a total dependence on presales toward structuring co-financing, ranging from studio coin to co-production, targeted multiterritory deals, local production investment and soft-money solutions. These options reduce exposure to a troubled sales market.

StudioCanal chairman Olivier Courson announced at Cannes that the Canal Plus-owned mini-major will now approach investors to raise complementary external slate financing, targeting specific slates, pushing annual production investment beyond $270 million a year.