Film pickup prospects

Buyers weigh in on Cannes acquisitions targets

The days of finding amazing films at festivals might be over,” sighs one major U.S. buyer who left the past few fests empty-handed. “It’s about pre-buys now.”

Sales of finished pics were thin on the ground at recent film festivals and markets, and it looks like the trend will continue. Sundance saw some smaller deals and Berlin was deemed a wipe-out by all but a few attendees.

Still, some buyers say they continue to be excited by the prospect of stumbling across that gem at Cannes. In the past couple of years, however, those films have been tiny jewels that haven’t gone far and wide beyond fest play and arthouse theaters.

But for buyers like IFC and Sony Pictures Classics, Cannes lately has been a treasure trove.

“You never know where you’re going to find a really solid film in Cannes,” Sony Pictures Classics co-prexy Michael Barker says about May’s festival-market combo. He and SPC partner Tom Bernard are true veterans of the fest grind and know how to maneuver around the crowded Croisette. Bernard bikes to screenings and saves seats for Barker and their acquisitions exec Dylan Leiner.

So what are some of the titles pic-pickers point to as possible targets?

They include Competition entries such as Ken Loach’s “Looking for Eric,” Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon,” Marco Bellocchio’s “Vincere,” Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” Jacques Audiard’s “The Prophet,” Xavier Giannoli’s “In the Beginning,” Johnnie To’s “Vengeance” and Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void” — which is rumored to be rushing to finish and might screen at the tail end of the fest.

Also of interest is Midnight Screenings entry “Don’t Look Back,” starring Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci, and Out of Competition pics such as Alejandro Amenabar’s “Agora” and Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited Heath Ledger film “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” which was unspooled for select buyers in Los Angeles just before the fest but will receive its first public screening in Cannes.

Among the market titles piquing interest are Gela Babluani’s “13,” Doug Liman’s “Fair Game,” Neil Marshall’s “Centurion,” Grant Heslov’s “Men Who Stare at Goats,” Johnny Depp starrer “The Rum Diary” and Peter Weir’s “The Way Back.”