After a vibrant Sundance, driven by Amazon Studios’ $47 million spending spree, can Berlin sales prove as buoyant? While there are some intriguing titles, indies have to contend with, among many factors, very active buyers from deep-pocketed streamers and a volatile theatrical box office in many territories.
Certainly there are star-studded titles. FilmNation will sell Hugh Jackman starrer “Reminiscence,” a sci-fi romance thriller from “Westworld” creator Lisa Joy. Aaron Sorkin directs “The Trial of the Chicago 7” that sports a starry cast including Seth Rogen and Eddie Redmayne. Rocket Science is handling sales.
In other high-profile offerings, AGC Studios is shopping sci-fi thriller “Voyagers” from Neil Burger (“Divergent”).
Mel Gibson and Tye Sheridan star in IMR Intl.’s thriller “Black Flies,” which screens a promo of Guy Ritchie’s crime actioner “Bush,” with Matthew McConaughey.
Sierra/Affinity reps true-crime drama “Silk Road,” with Nick Robinson and Jason Clarke, and “Lexi,” a “really cool comedy,” said one distributor, starring Adam Divine as a cell phone addict.
Studiocanal introduces animated feature “Samsam” and Cedric Klapisch’s “Someone, Somewhere” and Hugo Gelin’s “Love at Second Sight” “two incredibly romantic love stories that seem to be what the audience around the world wants to see out of a French movie,” said Studiocanal’s Anna Marsh.
One or two more big projects may well drop into the market start on Thursday. That said, in terms of big $50 million-plus movies, the market looks a little light.
“It will be a smaller Berlin. Among new titles, there are only a very few titles which are big and with guaranteed studio release,” said Imagem Filmes’ Ivan Boeing. “But there are interesting titles.”
That reflects shifting business fundamentals.
“A lot of talent is not available, not only actors but also directors and writers and below-the-line,” said Martin Moszkowicz at Germany’s Constantin.
Independent releases are being squeezed at the international box office by both Hollywood tentpoles and local blockbusters.
“You can’t release as many movies in theaters as you did in the past. There’s not enough space in theaters,” said Boeing.
In contrast, “I think OTT platforms will continue to buy worldwide rights for their platforms with increasing intensity at all major markets, including Berlin,” said Moszkowicz.
The steaming services “are all extremely active at the moment. The market is highly competitive. Local content is important to attract subscribers. They are going to have to be very busy,” said David Garrett, at Mister Smith Entertainment.
That does not mean that Berlin will a Park City redux. “Berlin is more about early packages and finished films or promos, with less volume than Sundance,” said Alex Walton at Endeavor Content, which has “Shadow in the Cloud,” an action-horror thriller starring Chloe Grace Moretz, to the market.
“I wouldn’t expect the same level of intensity in Berlin” as in Sundance, said Walton. But the OTT platforms “have absolutely set the tone for the year in terms of people understanding that further down the line it might be more challenging to buy, so they might have to enter earlier,” he said.
Berlin might also see action from more established players, such as Sony, Lionsgate and Transmission, which have moved to pick up Kate Winslet-Saoirse Ronan starrer “Ammonite.”
There is already “a forward momentum coming out of Sundance with theatrical films. Neon, A24 has been active, Sony Classics, IFC, Amazon. In the volume of sales, Sundance was more active than usual,” said Jonathan Kier, at Sierra/Affinity.
When it comes to the independent industry at large, however, “the market is changing, and there’s a huge shift from theatrical pictures to SVOD,” said Moszkowicz.
Berlin itself is embracing TV and OTT projects.
Amazon (“Hanna”) and Netflix (“Quicksand”) account for near 30% of Berlinale Series titles. At Berlin’s Drama Series Days, Netflix will host its own panel.
Netflix has a 49-person Berlin delegation signed up, with Amazon bringing 22. Of Hollywood studios, only Universal (28) bettered that total. Germany’s Beta Film was bringing 32 delegates to the festival, about half primarily TV-focused.
A lot of companies are already exploring film-TV synergies.
“There really are true bridges between TV and cinema. Each business works very closely together and essentially make one another – and the whole company – stronger,” Marsh said.
Indeed, some of Berlin’s biggest industry announcements may come in the Drama Series Days, not the rest of the festival.