Warming trend at Berlinale

Euro markets showing buying power

The frosty temperatures in Berlin haven’t put a freeze on foreign buyers’ appetites as strong markets in parts of Western Europe, notably Germany and Blighty, have helped keep business solid and steady.

A raft of hot titles, many of which came together very late in the game pre-EFM, have seen healthy business, with actioners and star-driven fare backed by quality scripts hitting the sweet spot for many buyers.

So far, the attitude from most sellers is a positive one, with many reporting healthy sales that have met expectations.

“Italy aside, the marketplace has been tremendously consistent over the last year and a half,” said FilmNation’s Glen Basner, “In general, we are getting what we believe we should receive in the marketplace. That’s a very healthy statement.” His outfit has nearly sold out on titles such as J.C. Chandor’s “All Is Lost” with Robert Redford, Philip Seymour Hoffman starrer “A Most Wanted Man” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Bitter Pill.” (See story, below.)

“The market this year is pretty steady,” says Paul Davidge of Exclusive Media, which sold Scarlett Johansson starrer “Can a Song Save Your Life” to Alliance Films for the U.K. early on in the market.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a huge leap in comparison from last year’s Berlinale,” he remarked. “However, we’ve felt that the buyers have been pretty buoyant this year.” He singled out strong markets in Germany, France, the U.K. and Switzerland.

“It’s good to see Western Europe getting a bit of a boost from these sectors,” he added.

And it’s true: German buyers have been showing their muscle this year, with many distribs playing on the relative strength of the free-TV market coupled with intense competition in the territory.

One German distrib noted that prices have been rising on specific types of films, such as the $10 million Kate Hudson starrer “Everly,” which is being shopped by Sierra/Affinity. Splendid reportedly paid $1.2 million for the pic for Germany, Switzerland and Benelux.

“It’s Kate Hudson, who’s mostly known for romantic comedies, in a room pitted against Japanese assassins. It sounds great,” remarked the distrib.

Likewise, it was known that Summit was asking around $5 million for the U.K. rights for supernatural teen drama “Beautiful Creatures” but even that price was eclipsed by German distrib Tele Muenchen Group, which acquired the title for a reported $8 million, although that price is said to include a second title as well.

“Yes — the pricing for Germany is going up — definitely on the titles that everybody wants,” said Martin Moszkowicz, Constantin’s head of film and television.

Moszkowicz opined that the high prices do not necessarily “reflect a stronger domestic German market, but rather stronger competition among distributors. The theatrical, home entertainment and TV markets have remained more or less on the same level for the last years. The market will readjust when distributors get hit by losses due to overpaid advances.”

Actioners have really clicked with buyers at the EFM, with the $84 million Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg starrer “2 Guns” heating up sales for Mark Damon’s Foresight Unlimited.

Project created a stir among distribs in the first few days of the market, with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions nabbing multi-territory rights for the project on the first day of the fest. EOne took U.K. and Canadian rights for a cool $10.6 million.

Canadian-based distribs eOne and Alliance Films, which both have hubs in Blighty, have also been hungry and aggressive for product.

“Everly,” the second project from Crime Scene Pictures, has gone gangbusters at the market: Alliance and eOne battled it out for U.K. and Canadian rights, with Alliance emerging victorious early on in the market.

EOne will go home with a handful of titles, including Jennifer Aniston starrer “Miss You Already” and “Bitter Pill” in addition to “2 Guns.”

Three strong-selling arthouse-crossover pics include Wild Bunch’s “Populaire,” “Renoir” and “In the House,” from Francois Ozon. All three, according to Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval, will be sold out by the end of the market.

And according to Bankside Films’ Stephen Kelliher, EFM has been a very healthy market this year.

“Berlin has proved to be a buoyant market, especially on projects where the cast, director and genre make sense to the buyers who are as discerning as ever,” said Bankside Films’ Stephen Kelliher, who reported strong sales on Helen Mirren starrer “The Door,” Annette Bening starrer “The Great” and the Damian Jones produced “Belle.”

Projects such as IM Global’s adult puppet pic “The Happytime Murders,” toplining Katherine Heigl, have certainly caused a stir among buyers, with deals on the project yet to be announced.

According to topper Stuart Ford, there has been a large number of offers on the pic but, with producer Brian Henson having been in town to pitch it to buyers, “the deals have taken longer” as Henson is keen to have the pic sit with the right distrib, and not just one that offers a big number.

(John Hopewell contributedto this report.)