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Berlin fest’s big bang theory

Smaller titles left out of energetic dealmaking

With just three days of the European Film Market to go, it’s becoming clear that the most robust business has been on a small number of relatively big films. Otherwise, sales have been sluggish.

Deals that did go down underscore how radically Berlin has evolved, though its roots are intact.

“It’s only really been in the last three or four years that Berlin became an event at which big movies are sold,” said Focus Films Intl.’s topper Alison Thompson.

“People are getting used to Berlin being a key market,” agreed FilmNation head Glen Basner.

In one of the biggest EFM sales in years, the Weinstein Co. bought U.S. rights to “Blood Sisters,” committing upwards of $30 million for U.S. P&A, per sources. Film is being sold by IM Global.

Drawing on Richelle Mead’s “Vampire Academy” bestsellers, and starring Zoey Deutch and Mark Walters, “Blood Sisters” is Harvey Weinstein’s first acquisition of a big commercial franchise. “The very introduction of the Academy Award guru to a teen franchise immediately starts to position it with a broader aspiration, something a little different,” said IM Global’s Stuart Ford, who exec produces “Sisters.”

Other higher-rollers also gambled at Berlin. On the three pics FilmNation introduced — the untitled Hugh Grant-Marisa Tomei romantic comedy, “Solace” and “The Imitation Game” — most territories will be pre-sold at Berlin, said Basner.

Focus Features Intl. briskly sold out most of the world on Jeremy Renner starrer “Kill the Messenger.”

Studiocanal wrapped sales on the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” closing Italy with Lucky Red, and began sales on its John Le Carre adaptation “Our Kind of Traitor” as well as pushing “Two Faces of January” to Russia (West).

“It felt like a slow start with not so many big movies announced here and buyers taking their time,” said Studiocanal topper Harold van Lier. “But by Sunday morning we were in full swing and what followed were two days of intense dealmaking a nd closing. It will make for a great market, with a promising start on our new films, notably ‘Our Kind of Traitor.’ ”

Mister Smith sold “Love, Rosie” to about 30 countries, and counting.

The Exchange’s Brian O’Shea used momentum from Sundance to close multiple sales on “Spectacular Now.” He said that the Exchange “closed a number of deals” on Richard LaGravenese’s Anna Kendrick starrer, “The Last 5 Years,” thanks to anticipation about the upcoming release of LaGravenese’s “Beautiful Creatures.”

The EFM underlined the indie biz’s march towards the mainstream. “Almost universally, broadcasters have become more selective as to the volume and the commerciality of the films they’re buying,” Ford said. “That inevitably means independent distributors are gravitating towards more commercial English-language films.”

It also underscored new indie sector film financing and sales energy in the U.S. “The increasingly meaningful U.S. VOD market and individual movies’ success — think ‘The King’s Speech’ — is stoking investor confidence,” Thompson said.

Christopher Woodrow, CEO of production and financier Worldview Entertainment, noted, “If the (U.S.) economy is doing better, you see that filtering to the film business. From our perspective, the (U.S.) economy is getting better, the stock market’s better, everything’s better all around.”

With Berlin business, as at the AFM, arthouse titles tended to get overlooked. Foreign distributors’ Berlin buys of big pics left them little money to buy artpic or crossover fare, one sales agent lamented.

There were specialty and foreign-language breakouts, however

Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight” sold widely after its Sundance bow and before its out-of-competish screening at Berlin. Buyers included Germany’s Prokino, France’s Diaphana, eOne in Australia and Sony for the U.K.

Germany’s Beta looks set to announce a swathe of sales on Berlin comedy and arthouse hit “Oh Boy.”

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