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France’s Metropolitan Stocks Up on U.S. Indie Fare

Other Gallic buyers remain wary of expensive pre-buys

PARIS — Samuel and Victor Hadida’s Metropolitan Filmexport, a top distrib of U.S. indie pics in Gaul, went on a shopping spree at Cannes.

The outfit nabbed Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” as part of package deal with IM Global that included Robert Redford’s “A Walk in the Woods,” an adaptation of Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail,” and Kevin Costner starrer “Black and White,” a drama helmed by “The Upside of Anger’s” Mike Binder. All three pics sold for $4.5 million.

Under its output deal with Lionsgate, Metropolitan picked up David Leitch and Chad Stahelski’s “John Wick,” starring Keanu Reeves, NFL dramedy “Draft Day,” with Costner and Jennifer Garner, and Blumhouse Prods.’ “Reawakening,” a horror thriller, starring Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass.

The shingle also acquired “The Fifth Estate,” DreamWorks’ Wikileaks drama that stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange, and street-racing actioner “Need for Speed,” starring Dominic Cooper from Mister Smith Entertainment via its deal with DreamWorks.

Apart from the Metropolitan buys, Cannes Film Market saw fewer French deals inked on new U.S. projects — in sharp contrast with last year when a wide range of Gallic distributors flocked to buzz U.S. titles, fueling bidding wars on various titles.

While the French market remains highly dynamic, considering the wide spectrum of distributors that go for high-profile U.S. fare; many projects with asking prices in the $2 million to $5 million range didn’t find a home in Gaul this year. Skyrocketing asking prices are part of the problem, said an insider.

“It seems that U.S. sellers have noted that France is a very competitive market so they’re looking to get the most out of it, but many projects just didn’t have the A-list cast and/or the script to justify these prices.”

For Lionel Uzan, head of acquisitions and sales at SND, the main problem was the lack of truly mainstream U.S. projects being presented at Cannes.

“Berlin was a so-so market, so we went into Cannes with high expectations, and overall we found it disappointing,” said Uzan. “Although there was a big flow of projects, most were too risky to commit on a pre-buy.”

SND, the commercial arm of TV net M6, nevertheless scored the acquisition of Breck Eisner’s “The Last Witch Hunter,” starring Vin Diesel, from Lionsgate, and Tarsem Singh’s “self/less,” toplining Ryan Reynolds, from FilmNation.

On top of its two-year output deal with Blumhouse Intl., Wild Bunch Distribution bagged Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” starring Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams, from The Weinstein Co.

Stephane Celerier’s Mars Distribution acquired Asif Kapadia’s untitled Amy Winehouse biopic from Focus Features Intl., and Woody Allen’s next project, which will shoot in the South of France, according to local reports.

In Berlin, Mars had pre-bought Charlize Theron starrer “Dark Places” from Exclusive Media.

Lastly, TF1, which is headed by Daniel Preljocaj, acquired Harald Zwart’s “Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes” from Mister Smith, and Joshua Marston’s “The Double Hour,” starring Michelle Williams and Joel Edgerton, from Lotus Entertainment.

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