Cannes Film Market 2016: ‘There’s Caution in the Air’

Netflix, studios, contracting ancillary sales all challenges for independent distributors

Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brie Larson, Mila Kunis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore, Idris Elba, Jessica Chastain, Jared Leto, Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan and maybe Robert De Niro topline big buzz projects at the 2016 Cannes’ pre-sales market which started coming together late last week, in an all-time down-to the-wire market flurry.

The huge question though is whether Martin Scorsese’s mob bio “The Irishman,” starring Robert DeNio, budgeted at a reported $100 million and in turnaround at Paramount, can be packaged fast enough to be brought to the market at Cannes.

Even without it, after a robust Berlin, “this is another strong market here because of the multitude and diversity of projects,” said Ivan Boeing of Brazil’s Imagem, predicting that Cannes would be “big and busy.”

FilmNation’s Glen Basner agreed: “It doesn’t feel like there are many huge movies, but it seems like there are plenty of films offered that should make for a quite healthy business for distributors.”

That said, for at least a decade, overseas biz fundamentals, such as TV and DVD sales, continue to erode.

“As Hollywood studios’ film production pipelines focus more on tentpoles and remakes, in other words, bigger and fewer movies, their appetite for independent acquisitions has grown, particularly for international territories where they have TV output slots to fill,” said IM Global’s Stuart Ford.

For Constantin’s Martin Moszkowicz, “Amazon and Netflix are investing a lot of money, which is good for producers and sales agents. The ones left out are local distributors who’ve been the backbone of Cannes.”

Bloom’s Alex Walton notes that “Netflix’s appetite is not close to over. They need to build product lines. They’re coming into original filmmaking aggressively.”

The big question at Cannes is whether any of its high-end fare will not only not be snapped up by studios or Netflix et al but can also break out to really substantial B.O., a la “The King’s Speech” or “Black Swan.”

Some films drawing attention include Bloom’s frontier epic “Hostiles,” with Bale, and its post-WWII yakuza thriller “The Outsider,” with Leto; Cumberbatch and Gyllenhaal in the Weinstein Company’s “The Current War,” a historical drama; the reteaming of Moore and director Todd Haynes for FilmNation’s family adventure “Wonderstruck”; and Sierra/Affinity’s “Bassmati Blues,” a musical comedy with Larson and “Molly,” Aaron Sorkin’s helming debut, starring Elba and Chastain.

Other pics expected to make waves include action comedy “Jackpot,” from IM Global, “a super-commercial studio-level package,” said Ford, with Kunis and Bryan Cranston attached; Good Universe’s WWII Mississippi farm-set “Mudbound,” with Hedlund and Mulligan. Lionsgate Intl. is selling chiller “Marrowbone,” from “The Impossible” co-scribe Sergio G. Sanchez, while  Mister Smith reps family crime thriller “Mean Dreams.”

Cannes’ biggest-budget projects may well be Studiocanal’s “Paddington 2,” from David Heyman, and IM Global’s animated “Wish Police.”

However strong the product at Cannes turns out to be, buyers will continue to be highly selective, projects will have to tick all the right boxes and sellers will be talking up movies’ theatrical potential and their own track record.

“Before, it was easier to come to the market with a director and script and say, ‘We’ll announce casting later.’ Now, everybody needs everything presented Cordon Bleu style ready to eat off the plate and with no bones,” said Mister Smith’s David Garrett.

Studiocanal’s Anna Marsh agreed. “There’s caution in the air. You can feel that among distributors. They’re buying more quality than quantity, focusing on theatrical.”

 

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