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Berlin: Market Forces Reshape Indie Biz — Again

The 2016 European Film Market isn’t without star power. Richard Gere toplines the Protagonist Pictures-sold psychological drama “The Dinner,” from Oren Moverman; Adam Driver (Rylo Ken to “Star Wars” fans) stars in Jim Jarmusch comedy “Paterson” from K5 Intl.; James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander grace Wim Wender’s “Submergence,” from Embankment.

But as indie film execs are getting ready for the market, which runs concurrently with the Berlin Intl. Film Festival from Feb. 11 to 21, nobody expects to see a bonanza of star-laden English-language vehicles for sale.

“There likely won’t be a crop of bigger new movies,” says IM Global’s Stuart Ford. “There will be a few. But I don’t think we’ll see a sudden boom.”

Blame the market forces within the international indie biz. In 2012 multiple sales companies launched as institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals moved into independent film finance — and needed sales agents to match equity with pre-sales. But now the international sales sector appears ready for a wave of consolidation.

Last month, eOne folded its international sales operation into Sierra/Affinity, already a joint sales venture of Sierra Pictures, OddLot Entertainment and Bold Films.

“The eOne-Sierra/Affinity deal is just the start,” says Martin Moszkowicz of Germany’s Constantin. “I expect at least another dozen or two dozen sales companies to either merge or disappear over the next two to three years.”

On top of the threat of more consolidation, the burgeoning fortunes of TV are also affecting film. “There is a talent drain on mid- and lower-budget movies, because so many actors and directors are busy doing TV shows,” Moszkowicz says.

Additionally, Ivan Barreto Boeing, director of international acquisitions at Imagem Filmes, notes that studios have become “increasingly aggressive in acquiring independent blockbusters.”

Exhibit A: Sony Pictures announced Jan. 25 that it had grabbed international rights to one of the biggest new market titles, Alcon Entertainment’s “Blade Runner” sequel.

In foreign markets, indies are being squeezed by both Hollywood juggernauts and local blockbusters. Hits such as Spain’s “Spanish Affair 2” ($37.5 million through Jan. 17 ) and Italy’s “Quo Vado?” ($58.1 million through Jan. 13) will beat “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in those countries. Constantin’s “Fack ju Goethe 2” sold more tickets than “Star Wars” in Germany.

“If the international box office is going up, this is entirely due to the success of local productions, like ‘Fack ju Goethe 2’ (pictured above) in Germany,” says Mister Smith Entertainment’s David Garrett. “They have admissions equivalent to at least eight successful American movies at 1 million admissions each.”

As international distributors back away from all but big, must-have movies and arthouse bestsellers, streaming services Netflix and Amazon have thrown traditional business models a curve ball.

“More and more pictures get sold to Netflix as original movies, which might work out financially these days, because it is starting to really pay top dollar,” Moszkowicz says. “But international distributors need huge P&A dollars behind their films’ U.S. (theatrical) releases in order to drive their domestic opening in their own territory.”

Protagonist’s Mike Goodridge says the middle man is being squeezed out. “Everyone’s looking for different revenue streams,” he says.

But sales are still to be had for the right product. IM Global will screen first footage of Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” with Liam Neeson and “The Circle” with Tom Hanks. FilmNation is teaming with J.C. Chandor to remake German thriller “The Robber”; Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp has attached Thomas Vinterberg to direct submarine action tragedy “Kursk”; and Rob Cohen is helming disaster movie “Category 5” for Foresight Unlimited.

Diversification is also being explored, with sales companies moving more into production. Sierra/Affinity will use eOne equity to build its production slate.

Protagonist is launching a development funding division to control in-house productions, per Goodridge.

Imagem is among the distributors plowing money into local productions. “Five years ago, we released 40 titles a year, three-quarters (of them) independent titles,” Boeing says. “In 2016, we will release as many local productions as international titles.”

Will the headline-making moves at Berlin come along these lines?


A selection of titles for sale at the European Film Market:

The Archbishop and the AntiChrist
Director: Roland Joffe
Producer: Craig Baumgarten
Key cast: Forest Whitaker, Vince Vaughn
Logline: Based on the play by Michael Ashton.
Intl. sales: 13 Films

The Bounce Back
Director: Youssef Delara
Producers: Ray Brown, Amir Delara, Youssef Delara, Victor Teran
Key cast: Kali Hawk, Nadine Velazquez, Shemar Moore
Logline: An author and relationship expert falls for a talk-show circuit therapist who’s convinced he’s a charlatan.
Intl. sales: DDI

Category 5
Director: Rob Cohen
Producers: Karen Baldwin, Michael Tadross Jr., and Danny Roth
Logline: Hackers infiltrate a U.S. Mint facility in a small coastal town to steal millions in cash just as a Category 5 hurricane is about to strike.
Intl. sales: Foresight Unlimited

Director: Steven Cantor
Producer: Gabrielle Tana
Key cast: Sergei Polunin
Logline: Immersive documentary portrait of ballet star Sergei Polunin
Intl. sales: WestEnd Films

El Rey del Once (1)
Director: Daniel Burman
Producers: BD Cine, Barbara Francisco, Pasto Cine
Key cast: Alan Sabbagh, Julieta Zylberberg
Intl. sales: Film Sharks

Family Heist
Director: Pascal Bourdiaux
Producers: Clement Miserez, Matthieu Warter
Key cast: Jean Reno
Logline: Art theft caper
Intl. sales: SND

Director: Joel Hopkins
Producers: Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae
Key cast: Diane Keaton, Brendan Gleeson
Logline: Donald Horner’s simple lifestyle in a ramshackle hut on the edge of London’s Hampstead Heath is suddenly threatened by greedy property developers, eager protesters and the chance of true love.
Intl. sales: Cornerstone Films

Marjorie Prime
Director: Michael Almereyda
Key cast: Jon Hamm, Lois Smith, Geena Davis, Tim Robbins
Producer: Uri Singer
Logline: Aging violinist named Marjorie hires a service that provides holographic re-creations of deceased loved ones so she can spend time with an imperfect copy of her deceased husband.
Intl sales: Fortitude Intl.

The Midwife
Director: Martin Provost
Curiosa Films
Key cast: Catherine Deneuve
Logline: A midwife gets unexpected news from her father’s old mistress.
Intl. sales: Memento

Much Ado About Nothing
Director: Alejandro Fernandez Almendras
Producers: Augusto Matte
Key cast: Agustin Silva
Logline: A powerful Chilean family covers up a crime.
Intl. sales: Film Factory

Jim Jarmusch
Producers: K5, Joshua Astrachan, Carter Logan
Keycast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani
Logline: Wry comedy
Intl. sales: K5 Intl.

Sicilian Ghost Story
Directors: Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza
Producer: Massimo Cristaldi, Indigo Film
Key cast: TBA
Logline: La Cosa Nostra meets the Brothers Grimm. Screenplay won the Sundance Institute’s Global Filmmaking Award.
Intl. sales: The Match Factory

Director: Andrea Molaioli
Producers: Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano, Carlotta Calori
Key cast: Jasmine Trinca, Luca Marinelli
Logline: Rome-set coming-of-ager based on eponymous Nick Hornby novel.
Intl. sales: True Colours

The Sleeping Shepherd
Director: Frank Hudec
Producer: Mike S. Ryan
Key cast: Michael Pitt, Imogen Poots, Isabelle Huppert
Logline: Alex is a failed painter who decided he would rather steal great art than paint it.
Intl. sales: The Solution Entertainment Group

Director: Wim Wenders
Producer: Cameron Lamb
Key cast: James McAvoy, Alicia Vikander
Intl sales: Embankment Films

Taking Earth
Grant Humphreys
Producers: Michael Harrison, Grant Humphreys
Key cast: Ronan Quarmby
Logline: Aliens invade Earth in an effort to find one boy who holds the power to destroy them.
Intl. sales: Empress Road Pictures:

3 Things
Director: Jens Dahl
Producer: Caroline Schlueter Bingestam, Jacob Jarek
Key cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen
Logline: A prime suspect in a bank robbery negotiates the terms of his witness protection deal with the police at a hotel.

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan
Director: Xavier Dolan
Producers: Lyse Lafontaine, Xavier Dolan, Nancy Grant
key Cast: Kit Harington, Jessica Chastain, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates
Logline: Exploration of fame and hurdles of the movie business.
Intl. sales: Seville Intl.

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