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China, Asia Drives Cannes Film Market to Record Attendance

The region also accounts for much of the new business at this year’s Cannes, as sales to the U.S. slow

2017 may go down in history as the year when China finally made the difference at the Cannes Film Market. Up 21% to 600 delegates, China helped drive attendance at the Marché du Film to an all-time record of 12,324 accredited participants, up some 400 on 2016. Chinese and Asian markets also drove the lion’s share of new business at Cannes, not only in big U.S. indie actioners as in the past but bigger European titles as well: Witness, for example, Weying closing China on nine Wild Bunch titles, including competition frontrunner “Loveless” and “Redoutable,” in one flagship deal. In contrast, sales to the U.S. only really kicked in briefly in a late market flurry.

Japan (up 13% to 309 attendees), Korea (up 9% to 286 attendees) and India, the Marché du Film’s guest country (rising 26% to 204 attendees), also contributed to this year’s attendance uptick, and Japan to trading.

“Beyond Europe, which is our strategic core territory and quite dynamic this year, Asia – especially China, Japan and South East Asia – really stood out at this year’s Cannes market,” said Anna Marsh, Studiocanal exec VP, international distribution, announcing near international sell-outs on Studiocanal’s flagship big English-language projects, the Working Title’s “Radioactive,” starring Rosamund Pike; and Nima Nourizadeh’s “The Tracking of a Russian Spy,” produced by The Picture Company.

By way of contrast, “If any territory was a little softer this year, it was South Korea,” Marsh noted.

Cannes  biggest single national presence, as in years past, remained the U.S., with 2,113 participants. In terms of international sales to countries beyond the U.S., it was U.S.  companies which, as is customary, made some of the biggest international sales announcements, Glen Basner’s FilmNation unveiling mid-week that it has near sold out in international a double-bill of upcoming Sebastian Lelio movies: “Disobedience,” with Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams; a project with Julianne Moore, inspired by Lelio’s “Gloria.”

U.S. market deals remained far slower, until a flurry of announcements in late week when the market for many companies had wound down.

In something of a late market surge , Cohen Media Group bought Michel Hazanavicius’ Jean-Luc Godard biopic “Redoubtable” from Wild Bunch; Lionsgate’s acquisition of Aardman Animation’s “Early Man,” financed and sold by Studiocanal, was confirmed at a Lionsgate results call; IFC took Lars von Trier’s upcoming serial killer thriller “House That Jack Built.” A24 tied down the U.S. on Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” one of Cannes’ hottest tickets after a rave bow in Directors’ Fortnight.

Maybe the most active of U.S. companies were STX and The Orchard. STX brought Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World” onto the market at Cannes and took Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” off the market, buying the U.S. for a reported $15 million in perhaps the biggest deal of this year’s Cannes.

The Orchard scooped up the U.S, on Robin Campillo’s “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” one of the most popular of Cannes competition players, and closed pre-buys on Deniz Gamze Erguyen’s “Kings” and Archie Border’s “Under the Eiffel Tower.”

As more and more movies compete for tougher theatrical release slots – the Cannes Film Market saw 910 movies screen at Cannes, and an enormous 3,820 titles sold at its market – the Cannes Film Market has become ever more proactive in guiding participants towards on-the-rise national territories, festivals or even sectors that are seeing market growth.

Among growth drivers, having steadily increased in recent years, the number of documentaries on sale at Cannes soared to 650, up on 2016. That also reflects the success of Marché documentary initiatives, including the extension of the Doc Corner and second edition of the Cannes Film Market’s Doc Day, with two packed out conversations with Amos Gitai and Jude Ratnam, director of “Demons in Paradise,” said Cannes Film Market director Jerome Paillard.

“Despite relatively small budgets, Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out,’ M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Split’ and James Wan’s ‘The Conjuring’ have smashed the $200 million mark. worldwide box office,” said Ángel Sala, Sitges Festival director, observed.

“That didn’t happen years ago,” he added.

As some genre movies punch extraordinary numbers, the Marché launched a highly successful platform for the Fantasia/Frontières genre festival and market, including a Fantasia/Frontieres Proof of Concept presentation of 11 genre film projects from Europe and North America.

With Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s “Carne y Arena” vindicating Virtual Reality as both an art form and social issue vehicle, the Market focused this year at its Next innovation hub, on VR. Next screened 85 VR films. “VR exhibitors were able to meet far more industry players than ever before,” Paillard added.

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