Berlin: Weinstein Company Is the Big Spender, But How Many Markets are Too Many?

European Film Market

Berlin’s 2014 European Film Market saw a late sales rally, one record claimed, a few hot sellers and even some surprises. But as one producer-distributor put it, there were “not enough good screenplays nor good directors nor buyers.”

“It’s not just that this market is so slow,” Constantin’s Martin Moszkowicz continued. “There are far too many markets in the year. Two markets should go.”

The Weinstein Co. plunked down $7 million — a Berlin record, maybe — for Benedict Cumberbatch starrer “The Imitation Game,” which FilmNation was reportedly selling strongly.

IM Global announced many major-market sales on “Labor of Love,” reteaming M. Night Shyamalan and Bruce Willis. Toymaker Mattel’s hoped-for live-action franchise “Max Steel,” another IM Global title, sold most of the world, said IM Global’s Stuart Ford.

K5 rolled out a second Willis title, the futuristic “Vice.”

Exclusive’s “Black Mass,” with Johnny Depp reattached, was one of the market’s buzziest titles. But Exclusive is set to undergo a shakeup as toppers Guy East and Nigel Sinclair are reportedly poised to exit the company and possibly take a producing deal.

U.S. deals included two buys by Radius-TWC: Salma Hayek action drama “Everly,” plus Gaumont’s Danish werewolf pic “When Animals Dream,” a strong seller also in other territories.

At the market’s start, Sony Pictures Classics bought Dreamcatchers’ “Aloft,” now in talks for multiple territories, while Open Road took Bill Murray starrer “Rock the Kasbah,” Cohen Media Group took Mundial’s “Libertador,” and Film Movement took Film Factory’s “To Kill a Man.”

But, as the EFM rounded its final bend Monday, many big U.S. and U.K. sales agents were pushing sales announcements back by days, even weeks.

“Nobody had anything really huge, really exciting,” said Ivan Boeing at Brazilian distrib Imagem. “Everybody’s after movies with early U.S. theatrical distribution, which raises the pay TV window value.”

But snagging significant U.S distribution is increasingly difficult.

However, there were interesting surprises, Boeing added, citing three in-production animated features: CMG’s “Sly Cooper,” “Almost Heroes” and SC Films’ “Wish,” from Prana Studios.

“The market is a bit slow. That probably reflects a nervousness about the global financial situation, a lack of big projects and a slowdown by Chinese buyers,” said Audrey Lee of Edko Films. “Some of them have been burned badly. Others may have cash-flow problems.”

Sellers may have learned from Cannes 2013 when projects were launched with only a couple of elements in place. “In these conditions, it is foolish to come to market with projects that are less than fully packaged,” said Gary Hamilton, managing director of Arclight Films.

Also, except for the next “Transporter” pic, Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Search” from Wild Bunch and MFI’s “The Free World,” Gallic sales companies debuted few big movies.

“The French market is in such a difficult situation that raising financing in France has become very complicated,” said Leonard Glowinski of Paris’ 22h22.

Despite the gloom, interest continues in buzz titles such as Pathe’s “Suffragette,” Studiocanal’s “Man Up,” TrustNordisk’s “Salvation” and, among smaller movies, Bac Films’ “Human Capital,” Mundial’s “Gueros” and TF1 Intl.’s “Sex, Drugs and Therapy.”

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions bought XYZ’s “Tusk” from Kevin Smith and Fortitude Intl.’s “The End of the Tour.”

Tommy Lee Jones starrer “The Homesman,” from EuropaCorp, closed multiple major markets.

Genre films were also closing deals. IFC bought IM Global’s “Gallows Hill,” Strand Releasing nabbed Bac’s “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears,” Vertical Entertainment bought Studiocanal’s “Mindscape” and Filmax Intl.’s “Torment.”

But the Berlin slowdown prompts larger reflections.

“The golden age of theatrical movies of our generation was 1995 to 2008, when you could make anything, sell anything. It is now the golden age of television,” said Moszkowicz.

Leo Barraclough contributed to this report.