AFM: Asia, Latin America rev up while Japan bounces back

Emerging markets pay off with more screens, digital deals

Korea, China, Japan, Russia and Latin America have provided much of the optimism among buyers and sellers as the 33rd edition of the American Film Market draws to a close — with buyers wanting more star-driven titles.

“We’re seeing a lot of strength from the emerging markets and Japan, which has bounced back,” noted Jere Hausfater of year-old Aldamisa, which was selling “Machete Kills” and “Sin City 3D.”

“There were not quite enough big movies selling here but overall, the business is definitely moving in the right direction. It can handle more so we should see very strong markets in Berlin and Cannes.”

Key titles that were in play included JFK Assassination project “Parkland” from Exclusive Media; Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street,” from Red Granite; Johnny Depp’s “Transcendence” from Lionsgate; aging rocker saga “Imagine” from Mister Smith; literary saga “Genius” from FilmNation; and a pair of Liam Neeson projects — police thriller “A Walk Among the Tombstones” from Exclusive Media; and airline thriller “Non-Stop” from StudioCanal and Joel Silver.

“The main buyers were hungry but there weren’t enough major titles,” added Exclusive Media’s Alex Walton.

Sellers noted that the gloomy conditions in Spain and Italy held down pricing in those markets, but added that emerging markets have more than made up for the losses.

The Korean delegation was among the largest contingent with about 150 attendees, partly due to efforts by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce to attract more buyers to AFM as part of President Obama’s National Export Initiative. The AFM partnership with the federal government also drew attendees from Brazil, Germany, China, Thailand, Romania, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“I think that the efforts by the Dept. of Commerce have been very effective,” said AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf. “The increase in new buying companies from Korea and China reflect that the emerging markets are growing demographically, compared to some of the European markets, where a lot of the population is aging.”

Maura Kawai, a Dept. of Commerce exec at AFM, said the goal of the department efforts are aimed at “business facilitation.” “The Koreans who came here are very independent and knew what they wanted,” she added.

Nate Bolotin of XYZ Films said he wasn’t surprised at the growing amount of deals made in emerging markets with more screens being built and more willingness to rely on digital revenues.

“You’re seeing growth of theatrical infrastructure, along with the willingness to think about VOD bumps, which means they’re willing to take bigger risks” Bolotin noted. “That makes it easier to get deals done, although the censorship can really slow down that process down the line.”

Genre films sold consistently during the market with Bolotin ‘s Celluloid Nightmares making a multi-territory deal with Wild Bunch on Nicholas McCarthy’s “Home” for France, Germany and Spain. Adult-themed dramas and thrillers tended to dominate the “hot lists” — with airline-set “Non-Stop” drawing “incredible” interest, according to StudioCanal’s Harold Van Lier following a promo presentation last week.

“There were bidding situations in every territory which kept us negotiating late into the night every day,” he noted. We will be sold out tomorrow (Wednesday) with the exception of one or two territories where I may take more time to assess our options. We also managed to carve out some valuable TV rights in places.”

Film started shooting Tuesday. He said pricing was notably elevated in China, Korea, Russia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Only a few markets hit by the economic slump — Spain and Italy — did not generate much buyer interest but Spain did eventually close for a decent minimum guarantee.

“We made record deals in China and South Korea,” he added. “And Japan is very much back in the game.”

Van Lier admitted he’s been surprised at the Hollywood majors’ lack of interest in acquiring foreign rights on this “elevated action” project with a mid-range budget.

“It’s such a low risk when you know TV value for a studio can so easily be calculated based on comps and having Universal releasing wide domestically,” he notes. “By tomorrow, we will have ended up closing a similar level of sales to that a studio could have paid but with each territory uncrossed and maximized in the back end.”

Van Lier noted that StudioCanal’s line-up is now about 90% English-language productions.

Studiocanal will be delivering around 10 major international productions next year and Van Lier anticipates bringing two or three stronger new projects to each major market.

StudioCanal also sold Hossein Amini’s thriller “Two Faces of January” to Universal for Scandinavia and Spain. The film is currently shooting in Istanbul and stars Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac.

Mimi Steinbauer, president and CEO of year-old Radiant Films, noted the breakneck pace of the indie biz is underlined at AFM, where her slate had three titles — “As Cool As I Am,” medical drama “Decoding Annie Parker” and Clark Gregg’s showbiz comedy-drama “Trust Me.”

“It’s very satisfying — and we’ll have several films to screen in Berlin,” she added. “It’s nice to get the support from buyers who are still buying.”

More Film

  • Billie Holiday (1915-1959, born Eleanora Fagan)

    Billie Holiday Documentary Draws Buyers as Concord Boards Project

    Concord, the successor to the Billie Holiday Estate, has boarded James Erskine’s documentary “Billie,” which tracks the iconic jazz singer’s life. Altitude Film Sales has sold the project to several territories. Also joining the project, now in post-production, is the Brazilian colorization artist Marina Amaral. Most of the filmed and still images that exist of [...]

  • My Extraordinary Summer With Tess review

    Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess'

    Winner of a special mention from the Berlinale Generation KPlus’ adult jury, the family-friendly, light drama “My Extraordinary Summer With Tess” is straightforward youth cinema with surprising emotional depth. Based on a prize-winning novel by Anna Woltz, a beloved Dutch writer of work for young readers, it explores family relationships and emphasizes the importance of [...]

  • UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report: Women, Minorities

    Hollywood Diversity Gains in TV but Falls Short in Movies

    Minorities and women have registered gains in several key areas of television but women continue to lag in movies, according to a report issued Thursday by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “My basic take is that TV is improving more for minorities and women than film,” said Dr. Darnell [...]

  • Ghost Fleet review

    Film Review: 'Ghost Fleet'

    The revelatory documentary “Ghost Fleet” condemns the modern-day slave labor fueling the Thai fishing industry while focusing on the work of Bangkok-based advocacy organization Labor Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN), a group dedicated to ending slavery at sea. Combining chilling testimony from formerly enslaved men, some wincingly arty recreations of their ordeals, and on-the-ground footage [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    WGA Plans March 25 Member Vote on Talent Agency Rules

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America plan a March 25 vote for members to decide whether to implement tough new restrictions on how Hollywood talent agencies as operate as agents for writer clients. The vote comes as the guild is in the midst of pitched negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents to renew [...]

  • Netflix Buys Chinese Sci-fi Hit 'The

    Netflix Buys Chinese Sci-fi Hit 'The Wandering Earth'

    Netflix has bought rights to “The Wandering Earth,“ the smash hit film pitched as China’s first mainstream sci-fi movie. The movie was the sleeper hit of Chinese New Year. It opened in fourth position on Feb. 5 but climbed to the top spot and has not yet relinquished it. After 14 days in theaters, the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan's Hitman Drama 'Silver Bear' Gets Director

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan’s “The Silver Bear” finds a director, biopic “Running for My Life” is in the works, Fox is using new trailer compliance software and the 14-hour “La Flor” gets distribution. DIRECTOR ATTACHMENT Gerard McMurray, director of “The First Purge,” will write and direct Michael B. Jordan’s thriller “The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content