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International Newswire: Berlin’s Market Rocked, Yes, But Now Comes the Reality Check

The 30th European Film Market, which wrapped Feb. 23, proved quite a remarkable event, the most vibrant in years, with a half-dozen or more big commercial titles, budgeted up to $70 million, hitting the bazaar, often down-to-the-wire, confounding industry pessimism. A week later, rolling off upbeat reviews, a series of arthouse competition winners or faves sold briskly: “Museum,” “Dovlatov,” “U-July 22,” “The Heiresses” and “Touch Me Not.”

But now comes the reality check, at least for many Berlin art films. One case in point: Ramón Salazar’s mother-daughter drama “Sunday’s Illness.” It drew glowing reviews: “A perfectly calibrated drama boasting exquisite attention to detail,” “elegant visuals,” and “astonishing performances,” wrote Variety. Selected in Variety’s 10 Best Berlin Films, it opened in Spain on Feb. 23 by a prestige ultra-experienced distributor, Caramel, and over its first weekend, it grossed just €35,600 ($43,752), ranking No. 23 at the box office, according to comScore.

Above it, are the two kinds of movies really lighting fires in international: Hollywood family/YA blockbusters, such as “Coco” ($20 million) and local comedies, such as “Perfect Strangers” ($25.2 million). Save for a clutch of big titles, often from Lionsgate or STX, something is clearly wrong in international markets for nearly all indie films — to the extent that one change to the E.U.’s Media Program aired at Berlin’s European Film Forum was plowing its distribution support into helping distributors’ P&A, not MGs. Whatever the solution, if one exists, something needs to be done.

The European Film Market set a new record with more than 10,000 visitors from 112 countries. Organizers reported increases in the number of buyers (1,838), exhibitors (546), films (800) and screenings (1,112). The market runs alongside the Berlin Film Festival, which came to a close on Sunday after 11 days with 330,000 admissions having being sold, underscoring the unabated interest the fest enjoys among the public – it attracts the largest audience of any film festival in the world. More than 21,000 accredited visitors from more than 130 countries attended. Next year’s Berlinale runs Feb. 7-17.

Constantin Television has inked an exclusive three-year deal with screenwriter Eva Kranenburg, who penned the company’s upcoming modern-day adaptation of “Perfume.” The six-part crime drama, loosely based on the period novel by Patrick Sueskind, is a co-production between Constantin Film and ZDFneo, which will debut the series this fall. Netflix will stream the series worldwide, outside of German-speaking territories.

Oliver Berben, Constantin Film’s executive board member for television, digital media and entertainment, described Kranenburg as “an absolute exception in the world of writers,” adding that the move showed the value Constantin places on screenwriters. The talent deal follows a similar three-year agreement reached in December with screenwriter Doron Wisotzky, whose credits include local box-office hits “What a Man” and “Schlussmacher,” both starring Matthias Schweighoefer, who also produced and directed.

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