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Berlin: 2016 Sees Strong But Select Biz at the European Film Market

But U.S. distribution – and there are a limited number of distributors - now the key to international success

'Hail, Caesar!' photocall, 66th Berlinale International
Photo by Camilla Morandi/REX/Shutterstock

This year’s European Film Market may well go down as the strongest in years. “There was a great selection of titles, of everything you want: Big, small, sophisticated, arthouse, director-driven titles,” said Ivan Boeing at Imagem.

The most high-profile deal happened when Paramount closed domestic for around $10 million on the George Clooney-directed “Suburbicon.” The new leadershsip at Focus Features nabbed North America and most of international on Jeff Nichols’ “Loving” for $9 million. CAA handled both the “Suburbicon” and “Loving” domestic deals.

U.S. theatrical deals are once again important in the international sales mix, after years where they relegated to the background. “What really struck me at Berlin this year was the significant number of titles on which sellers guaranteed their film would get U.S. theatrical release, sometimes a conventional release or a studio pick-up,” said Boeing.

Some even guaranteed a movie’s screen count. “If you don’t have a U.S. deal but can guarantee one with a minimum number of prints, it amounts to more or less the same thing,” said Foresight’s Mark Damon.

“Suburbicon” has sold out in almost all of the international territories, said Alex Walton of the film’s sales company Bloom. “The U.S. deal was of major importance,” he said, adding that without it, “Suburbicon” would have sold but not as effectively within the timeframe of the market. Clooney and the film’s producers made a presentation to buyers at Berlin.

Other big movies did strong business with international territories: Foresight Unlimited’s disaster action thriller “Category 5,” has sold most of the world, recently closing with SND for France. The Solution Entertainment Group clinched key territories on espionage thriller “Official Secrets,” starring Harrison Ford. Steven Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky,” handled by FilmNation, and Pathe’s period drama “A United Kingdom,” figured among Berlin’s other hottest tickets, per distributors. FilmNation completed international sales on prestige pic “The Sense of an Ending.”

Among other titles, Ira Sachs’ “Little Men,” repped by Mongrel Intl., closed key territories after warm responses at Sundance and Berlin; Alec Baldwin-Salma Hayek comedy “Drunk Parents” sold multiple territories for Fortitude Intl.

Other Angle’s French action-comedy “Full Speed,” Film Factory’s spy thriller “Smoke and Mirrors,” Memento Films Intl.’s Ashgar Farhardi project, and Fortissimo’s Academy Award-shortlisted “Theeb” are among key foreign-language titles that sold.

Yet, despite the wealth of product, dealing still looked quite select through early Monday. “There’s not much in-between business. It’s either big pictures or very special art-films with important directors,” Damon said.