An initiative led by Hollywood talent agency CAA to set up a virtual film market that would replace the Cannes Marché du Film in the event of its cancellation due to coronavirus is being welcomed by some European sales agents, and has prompted Cannes to announce its own virtual market.

Sources have confirmed that a CAA-led initiative in tandem with agencies Endeavor Content, UTA and ICM Partners — and with a robust contingent of top U.S. and U.K. players on board — is gaining traction, though it is not yet confirmed to happen.

The initiative, which has widespread buy-in, comes as companies get antsy about the fact that the Cannes Film Festival and market won’t yet confirm whether or not they will cancel.

Sales companies believed to be on board for the virtual market include 30West, AGC Studios, Altitude, Anton, Cornerstone, Endeavor Content, FilmNation, Mad River, Lionsgate International, Miramax, Mister Smith, Protagonist, Rocket Science, Sierra/Affinity, Solstice Studios, STX Entertainment, Voltage Pictures and Wild Bunch International, with which CAA has a close rapport.

CAA is planning another big call with all the sales agents in the next day or two.
“It’s something we’re still exploring, though nothing has been confirmed or set. After the next call, we’ll have a better idea of what happening,” said a representative for one U.K. sales agent.

Screening modalities are still being figured out but could involve screenings of completed product in cities where the coronavirus crisis has subsided, as well as multiple video conferencing platforms for promo reels and talent presentations.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Cannes Marché revealed it is setting up a virtual market initiative on its existing Cinando industry platform.

Jerome Paillard, the head of Marché du Film, told Variety that if the festival is canceled, the online market will be able to serve all accredited participants. Accreditation rates for online participants will be about 50% of the regular rate for the physical market.

He added that the official virtual Cannes market would be complementary to the CAA-led initiative which he considers to be more focused on presentations around packaging and promoting movies rather than market screenings.

There is already some skepticism, however, about how effective Cannes’ digital market platform could be.

“We need to understand how many people we could reach,” said sales agent Gaetano Maiorino of Italy’s True Colours, who notes that “the Cannes market isn’t telling us anything” about whether the physical market will happen or not.

“If it’s on a scale anywhere near Cannes, then it has to be a powerful platform. That’s the key issue before I decide to join an initiative of this type,” Maiorino noted.

Regarding the CAA-led initiative, the key question for European companies at this stage is whether it would just be a club for big U.S. and U.K.-based players, or whether “they will open it up to everyone,” said one European seller, who added he would prefer a virtual official Marché du Film platform to succeed rather than the CAA-led one because “If the Americans go through with this, it could jeopardize Mipcom and MipTV.”

Elsa Keslassy and Manori Ravindran contributed to this report.