×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlinale: A Cautious Market Meets a Reviving Independent Business

Alicia Vikander, Julianne Moore, Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen star in new projects at a Berlin market boosted by a number of early looks at high-profile movies in the making. Even so, activity at this year’s European Film Market is unlikely to diverge much from the caution seen at recent major gatherings, such as Sundance.

“It’s probably going to be a slow and small market again, but definitely better than the AFM, which was a complete disaster,” said Ivan Boeing of Brazil’s Imagem.

“Buyers are increasingly cautious, want to see more and more before buying,” added Anne Chérel at Studiocanal, whose lineup is led by French Revolution epic “One Nation, One King.”

That wariness reflects the unevenness across the international market. “A movie can do great in Italy but won’t work in France,” Lionsgate’s Patrick Wachsberger said. “To have a shot you have to be original. ‘La La Land’? Original. ‘Wonder’? Original. And they’re not big-budget.”

For the most part, distributors at the EFM will sift through a mainstream lineup with an accent on upscale quality, not big-budget popcorn fun.

Berlin does not give cause for total pessimism, however. Among the biggest players, Lionsgate Intl. is bringing Keanu Reeves’ “John Wick: Chapter 3” and drama-comedy “Green Book,” starring Viggo Mortensen and helmed by Peter Farrelly, “who is a great surprise, given the types of movies he’s directed,” Wachsberger said.

Lionsgate is also shopping sci-fi actioner “Hummingbird,” which re-teams “Resident Evil’s” Milla Jovovich with Paul W.S. Anderson as the writer. Bloom has added Fassbender action-comedy “Kung Fury” and “The Operative,” an espionage thriller with Eric Bana and Diane Kruger.

STXinternational. is selling Jake Gyllenhaal crime thriller “Finest Kind,” financed by 30West, while FilmNation arrives with Amazon Studios romancer “The Aeronauts,” with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Elisabeth Moss stars in Mister Smith’s “Letters From Rosemary Kennedy,” and Annapurna/MadRiver is introducing “The Translation of Wounds,” a chiller targeting the young adult market.

Buzzy titles include Protagonist Pictures’ “Lords of Chaos” and Sierra Affinity’s “American Animals,” which arrive in Berlin fresh from acclaim at Sundance.

These titles hit a challenged European Film Market, which grew as a pre-sales market for big U.S. projects. “The pre-sales market hasn’t gone,” said Savvy Media Holdings Matthew George, producer of Bloom’s “A Private War,” starring Rosamund Pike. But “distributor numbers are getting softer and softer,” George said.

“People still recognize there is a great business in international. Everyone just has to temper their budgets to the market,” said David Garrett of Mister Smith, which is also introducing “The Elephant Queen,” described by Garrett as “‘March of the Penguins’ with elephants, crossed with ‘The Osbornes.’”

“The old model is half-broken,” Constantin’s Martin Moszkowicz said.

But Constantin and other companies are responding with new plays that are driving market trends and reinvigorating the independent business.

Women are moving to the fore. Slightly more of the EFM’s highest-profile projects headline women rather than men, including Vikander-starrer “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” from STXinternational and producer-financier Black Bear Pictures. Moore leads a remake of Susanne Bier’s “After the Wedding,” from Cornerstone.

Independents are still making big movies, though “our goal is to do expensive movies only if we see franchise potential,” Wachsberger said, citing “The Kingkiller Chronicle.”

Constantin will shoot writer Anderson’s “Monster Hunter,” based on Capcom’s now fastest-selling video game. “We’re jumping into the void left by the studios, making movies up to $50 million to $60 million. Buyers are looking for material that stands out and has a cinematic experience basis,” Moszkowicz said.

So the market is skewing two ways: “bigger movies with a franchise or fan base,” and “more original quality director-driven titles that can cut through, being distinctive and fresh,” said Protagonist’s Dave Bishop. A case in point: Protagonist closed most of its international sales on “The Florida Project” and “The Rider” at Cannes last year.

Distributors and sales agents are also pushing deeper into production, often of local projects. Constantin’s German movie releases alone grossed an extraordinary $110 million last year.

Moreover, as the overseas theatrical business shrinks for English and foreign-language movies alike, some of the world’s biggest independent players are firing up the remake business, sometimes spectacularly. “Perfect Strangers” has earned $43.3 million for the Italian original and the Spanish remake, which is still on release.

More Film

  • Carlos Almaraz Playing With Fire review

    Palm Springs Review: 'Carlos Almaraz: Playing With Fire'

    Though he passed away three decades ago, Carlos Almaraz’s reputation as a major American painter — which was just getting started when he died of AIDS in 1989 — promises to continue to gain traction with the years. Documentary tribute “Playing With Fire” by his fellow-artist widow Elsa Flores and Richard Montoya mostly transcends standard [...]

  • Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano's 'The Specials'

    Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano's 'The Specials' Already a Gaumont Sales Hit (EXCLUSIVE)

    Following the widely successful “C’est La Vie,” Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s (“The Intouchables”) passion project “The Specials” (“Hors normes”) starring Vincent Cassel and Reda Kateb, has already lured major buyers in key territories. Gaumont, which delivered the largest number of French B.O. hits overseas in 2018, has pre-sold “The Specials” to Germany, Austria (Prokino), [...]

  • The Realm review

    Palm Springs Review: 'The Realm'

    The notion that government is one big con directing money into already well-lined pockets is confirmed and then some in “The Realm.” Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s “Michael Clayton”-like thriller has struck a chord in Spain, where the persistence of corruption in the post-Franco era is a popular topic bordering on obsession. But are examples of corruption just [...]

  • Fig Tree review

    Palm Springs Reviews: 'Fig Tree'

    It’s a question integral to much of the current international immigration debate: When war breaks out, who gets to flee and who’s left with nowhere to run? As a child, writer-director Aalam-Warqe Davidian was among a majority of Ethiopian Jews who emigrated to Israel. In her loosely autobiographical feature debut, a teenager facing similar circumstances [...]

  • Jeff BridgesJeff Bridges, who stars in

    Film News Roundup: Jeff Bridges Wins American Society of Cinematographers Honor

    In today’s film news roundup, Jeff Bridges is honored by cinematographers, the “Arctic” filmmakers get a first-look deal and releases are set for “Vault,” the Seth Rogen-Charlize Theron comedy and “What Lies Ahead.” BRIDGES HONORED The American Society of Cinematographers has selected Jeff Bridges as the recipient of the organizations’ 2019 Board of Governors Award. [...]

  • Cate Blanchett's 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette'

    Cate Blanchett's 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' Moved Back to August

    Annapurna Pictures has moved its Richard Linklater literary adaptation “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” starring Cate Blanchett back five months from March 22 to an Aug. 9 release. A rep for Annapurna explained that August has served well as a launching pad for release of female-skewing films such as “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Florence Foster Jenkins” and [...]

  • Kumail Nanjiani Issa Rae

    Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae to Star in 'Lovebirds' Romantic Comedy

    “The Big Sick” star Kumail Nanjiani and “Insecure” star Issa Rae will topline Paramount’s romantic comedy “The Lovebirds.” The project will reunite Nanjiani with “The Big Sick” helmer Michael Showalter, who’s on board to direct from a script by Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, and Martin Gero. The project goes into production at the end of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content