Studiocanal Rolls Out ‘Suddenly,’ ‘Baghead,’ ‘Bojangles,’ ‘Cat Person’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Vanessa Kirby
Dan Doperalski/AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, Pool

European film-TV powerhouse Studiocanal has clinched major territory sales across a powerful slate of new movies, led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Vanessa Kirby survival thriller “Suddenly,” and “Baghead” with “The Witcher’s” Freya Allan.

“Waiting for Bojangles” and “Cat Person,” starring “Succession’s” Nicholas Braun and “Coda’s” Emilia Jones, are also finding trading traction, as is Cannes Festival player “Peaceful,” headlining Catherine Deneuve, also has deal momentum.

Multiple deals are in advanced negotiations, and will close by festival end, said Chloé Marquet, Studiocanal head of international film sales as she drilled down on deals done.

“Suddenly” will be put through Studiocanal direct distribution operations in the U.K., Germany, France and Australia/New Zealand. In major deals, it has now closed distribution in half the biggest film markets in the world, adding Latin America (California) and Italy (Leone).

Other key sales take in Eastern Europe (Prorom), Blitz (ex-Yugoslavia), Turkey (Tanweer), Portugal (Lusomundo), CIS (Volga), Middle East (Salim Ramia), South Africa (Empire), Kinoswiat (Poland) and Taiwan (Moviecloud).

The second movie directed by prestigious French screenwriter Thomas Bidegain, who wrote Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet” and Palme d’Or-winner “Dheepan,” “Suddenly” stars Gyllenhaal and Kirby, hot off Netflix’s “Pieces of a Woman,” as a couple stranded on a vast uninhabited island off Chile.

“This cast is powerful and extremely talented. Thomas Bidegain has such pedigree as a writer and the film is extremely well written,” said Marquet.

It’s a love story with a twist. The couple fight for survival and also their relationship, Marquet added, observing that Bidegain has remarked that people are coming out of a lockdown where they have discovered aspects of their partner’s personality that they didn’t even know. “As such, you can see this film touching people. It’s incredibly universal,” Marquet said.

Alain Attal’s hugely successful French shingle Tresor Films (“Little White Lies,” “Polisse”) and Gyllenhaal’s Nine Stories produce “Suddenly.” Artemis Productions (Belgium) and True North Productions (Iceland) co-produce.

In first sales, supernatural horror feature “Baghead,” starring Allan, has licensed Latin America with Imagem.

“It was a nice surprise closing two big deals in Latin America after one year when the region has really struggled,” Marquet said.

In a flurry of early “Baghead” sales, it has also closed ex-Yugoslavia (Blitz), Portugal (Pris),  CIS (Volga), Middle East (Salim Ramia), Poland (Kinoswiat), Moviecloud (Taiwan), Turkey (Bir), and Benelux (Searchers). Japan is in discussion.

The film is produced by Studiocanal and Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman’s The Picture Company, Studiocanal’s go-to production partner in the U.S. (“The Commuter,” “Non-Stop,” “Gunpowder Milkshake”) and horror franchise specialist Roy Lee (“It, “The Ring,” “The Grudge”).

Directed by Spaniard Alberto Corredor, expanding on his same-name short, “Baghead” turns on a young women who inherits her father’s run-down bar whose basement is home to a monster which can transform into the dead – but only for two minutes.

“With our partners The Picture Company we believe this film has franchise potential. The producing package is also really strong, as is the concept in itself: If you had two minutes to talk to someone you knew and who died, what would you say?” Marquet noted.

A company whose top titles have been among the best-selling new projects on offer at markets for a decade or more, Studiocanal’s sales slate deals announcement marks one of the first in a generally steady but not spectacular Cannes market.

“People know this year will be challenging as there are so many films to be released and there will be a lot of congestion,” said Marquet, adding that she hoped the situation would improve in multiple countries where theatrical drives most revenues but theaters are still closed, such as in South East Asia.

That said, Marquet said that she was “quite amazed and greatly encouraged by the confidence and trust of distributors in the return of the theatrical market.” She added: “There are still a large number of distributors incredibly active in this space.”

Marquet noted that Studiocanal’s best pre-sellers this year have often been films that will come out in 2022 or early 2023, such as “Retribution,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It?,” “Suddenly” and “Baghead.”

“Studiocanal movies succeed because they serve territory needs. Whether commercial action films, romcoms, high-concept genre pics or prestige films. We have the right titles for our buyers and their markets,” she also noted.

In its biggest sale on the film outside Studiocanal’s four domestic territories, Studiocanal has licensed “Cat Person” to Korea’s Pancinema. Also closed are ex-Yugoslavia (Blitz), Baltics (Acme), Portugal (Lusomundo), Benelux (Belga), Middle East (Salim Ramia) and Poland (Kinoswiat).

A psychological thriller starring Braun and Jones based on the famed The New Yorker short story by Kristen Roupenian, the film, reportedly describing the “hellscape” of modern romance, is directed by DGA award-winning Susanna Fogel (“The Flight Attendant,” “The Wilds”).

“We enjoyed selling ‘Cat Person’ so much. Even with the challenges a Virtual Cannes Market can bring, this project created so many interesting discussions with our buyers,” Marquet said.

She added: “We strongly believe ‘Cat Person’ will become an essential film about relationships in our contemporary society while being an entertaining thriller audiences will embrace worldwide.”

Studiocanal also launched at the Pre-Cannes Screening a second horror/supernatural thriller, “Bunker Game.” Now in post and produced by Jad Ben Ammar and Leo Maidenberg, the high concept genre film is set in a real WWII bunker in Italy. Pre-sales take in Poland (Kinoswiat), Baltics (GPI), CIS (Exponenta), ex-Yugoslavia (Blitz), Vietnam (Noori) Middle East (Salim Ramia) and Taiwan (Moviecloud). The U.S. and Latin America are under discussions.

Described by Marquet as the “story of a passionate and unconventional couple,” portrayed by Virginie Efira (“Benedetta”) and Romain Duris (“Heartbreaker”), “Waiting For Bojangles” has proved one of Studiocanal’s best-selling French-language titles, closing Portugal (Lusomundo), Benelux (Belga), CIS (Exponenta), Eastern Europe (Prorom), ex-Yugoslavia (Blitz), Israel (Eden Cinema), Turkey (Tanweer) and Taiwan (Moviecloud).

Launching well at Cannes, Variety described it on Sunday as “so far one of the most applauded films at the festival,” Emmanuelle Bercot’s “Peaceful,” starring Deneuve, has closed Switzerland (Frenetic), Portugal (Lusomundo), Benelux (O’Brother), Poland (Kinoswiat), Canada (TVA), Taiwan (Central Motion) and Indonesia (PT Falcon). Studiocanal is in discussions for China, Italy, Latin America, among other markets.