×

Berlin: Strong Fare, New Players May Fuel Market

Netflix, Amazon may pounce, but they’re not the only acts in town

A fortnight ago, Sundance’s big story revolved around the Netflix and Amazon cash splash. Will Berlin follow suit?

That’s no foregone conclusion. “Netflix is a special case as they have a broader worldwide presence. Amazon, Hulu and Yahoo are still focused on U.S. markets,” said Ivan Boeing at Brazil’s Imagem.

The Netflix effect was felt fully in the TV world at October’s vibrant Mipcom; there’s ample opportunity for Netflix and Amazon buys during the 2016 Berlin festival as the European Film Market offers its strongest edition in recent years.

At this market, Bloom introduces “Suburbicon,” from director George Clooney, written by the Coens and starring Matt Damon; IM Global has Keanu Reeves actioner “Rally Car” and Western drama “Woman Walks Ahead,” with Jessica Chastain; FilmNation may shop Steven Soderbergh’s heist comedy “Lucky Logan,” with Channing Tatum; Nu Image is repping submarine thriller “Hunter Killer,” with Gerard Butler aboard; and the Solution Entertainment Group is offering “Official Secrets,” a spy thriller with Harrison Ford and Anthony Hopkins starring.

There’s also auteur-driven commercially leaning  pics, such as Wim Wenders’ Embankment-sold “Submergence,” with Alicia Vikander; Oren Moverman’s “The Dinner,” from Protagonist, starring Richard Gere; Volker Schlondorff’s “Return to Montaux,” from Gaunt; Jim Jarmusch’s Adam Driver dramedy “Paterson,” being sold by K5; and Xavier Dolan’s “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” starring Natalie Portman, Nicholas Hoult and Thandie Newton, from Seville Intl.

As it cultivates relations with top sales agents and producers worldwide, sometimes buying multiple titles, Netflix is likely to come out at Berlin with guns blazing on a clutch of high-profile movies, courting near exclusive global rights: The more theatrical deals in place, or the lengthier the theatrical-Netflix window, the less it offers.

Buying all U.S. rights, then sub-distributing for theatrical release, Amazon can be expected to scout for U.S rights to upscale English-language projects.

But streaming giants aren’t the only game in town. “It’s not just Netflix and Amazon: Studios can come in and buy all international rights on a handful of international movies, including some of ours,” said FilmNation’s Glen Basner.

Here, U.S. distribution ranks ever more as a pre-sales gatekeeper: “The market’s becoming more and more bifurcated. If a project has guaranteed U.S. distribution, independent distributors can still put significant money into it. But then it falls onto the radar of the studios,” said Lotus Entertainment’s Jim Seibel.

So indie distributors are increasingly caught between a streaming giant rock and a studio hard place.

“Distributors around the world are still always going to be looking for premium content. Independent financing, which is always triggered by equity and sales, remains the bedrock of our business,” said Sierra/Affinity’s Nick Meyer.

Although Netflix can pay top dollar, “There’s certainly more money by having all rights ignited by cinema,” Bloom’s Alex Walton concurred.

One sales agent said, “(But) if you don’t have the star or director power, or a concept’s not appealing enough for buyers to pre-buy, Netflix and Amazon are interesting and ambitious models,” he added.

Most product makers and suppliers welcome Netflix and Amazon. They are “another avenue to exploit our films. They’re creating more competition in pricing, particularly in the U.S., which is great,” said Basner. That said, “We are all trying to figure out how best to accommodate everybody,” he added.

For the international independent industry, that indeed is the question.

Many aren’t waiting for answers. With a feeding fever for content — rather than movies in particular – and Netflix talking not only to sales agents but to producers, for some, production already looks far more exciting than battling to license films across 45 territories.

Expect a sales sector shakeout as players scale up via alliances and mergers or move increasingly into production.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • The Great Outdoor documentary series about

    Farm to Picture: Documentary Series 'The Great Outdoor' Chronicles a Life Gone to Pot

    Cannabis cultivation in the Emerald Triangle, the area in Northern California that has long been a go-to for growers, has a starring role in a new documentary series called “The Great Outdoor.” Funded by Flow Kana, one of the state’s leading cannabis flower brands, filmed by David Zlutnick, and executive-produced by Flow Kana co-founder Flavia [...]

  • 1982 El Gouna Festival

    Egypt's El Gouna Film Festival Puts Arab Helmers at Center Stage

    The upbeat state of Arab cinema will be on the screen and in the balmy air at Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival (Sept. 19-27), which is steadily gaining traction in its stated ambition to become a key platform and solid driver for Middle-East producers. “This year was one the best for Arab cinema,” says Intishal [...]

  • Star Skipper Paramount Animation

    Meet Star Skipper, Paramount Animation's Magical New Trademark Logo Character

    Studio logos are powerful signals to audiences.  Multiple generations of moviegoers flipping through channels or scanning streaming titles have frozen at the sight of a desk lamp hopping across the screen, because it means a Pixar movie is about to play. Likewise, when a young boy lounging inside a crescent moon casts his fishing line into [...]

  • Sybil

    Cannes Competition Movie 'Sibyl' Finds North American Home With Music Box (EXCLUSIVE)

    Music Box Films has acquired the U.S. and Canadian rights to Justine Triet’s darkly comic drama “Sibyl,” which competed at Cannes and had its North American premiere at Toronto in the Special Presentation section. Represented in international markets by mk2, the film follows the ambiguous relationship between Sibyl, a jaded psychotherapist (Virginie Efira, “An Impossible [...]

  • Kent Jones Directs 'Diane'

    Kent Jones to Exit New York Film Festival (EXCLUSIVE)

    In a surprise move, New York Film Festival’s director and selection committee chair of seven years Kent Jones will step down following this year’s 57th edition, which runs Sept. 27-Oct. 13. The departure comes as Jones’ feature filmmaking career is taking off. Issues of potential conflicts of interest have arisen as his work has moved [...]

  • Ava-Mark-Split

    Ava DuVernay, Mark Ruffalo Selected for SAG-AFTRA Foundation Honors

    Ava DuVernay and Mark Ruffalo have been selected by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation for its fourth Annual Patron of the Artists Awards. The awards will be presented on Nov. 7 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. The show benefits the nonprofit SAG-AFTRA Foundation and is not televised. Previous SAG-AFTRA Foundation Patron of the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content