Just how large its top-tier offers may be, and the volume of deals, are still open for debate.
“Very compact,” said Constantin’s Martin Moszkowicz of the EFM, which swelled somewhat thanks to a flurry of title announcements on Feb. 4, followed by a steady trickle of big unveils.
“The EFM does not look like it will have the comparable volume of the AFM,” Mister Smith’s David Garrett said. “But there will certainly be enough to whet people’s appetites.”
The market has, in fact, been building for nearly a fortnight. Following the IFC Midnight/Shudder domestic deal at Sundance for “Watcher,” AGC Studios moved forward its virtual EFM buyer screenings of the genre film by two weeks, closing international with Focus Features.
“The market’s definitely been kicking off, given it doesn’t have to happen in the usual physical time frame. The number of announcements being made really inspires confidence that there is business to be done, despite the challenges,” Protagonist CCO George Hamilton said.
“The market’s starting earlier and will last longer. The momentum’s not limited to just a few days of the official market itself,” agreed Julia Weber at Telepool sales arm Global Screen, which is clinching key sales at the EFM on WWII drama “Lost Transport,” with European Shooting Star Hanna van Vliet.
Other titles will almost certainly see sales traction.
Having bought U.S. domestic rights, STXInternational is bringing onto the Berlin market Michael Mann’s long-cherished project “Ferrari,” starring Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz and Shailene Woodley.
U.S. buyers are reportedly circling both Hanks’ comedy “A Man Called Otto,” sold overseas by STXinternational, and Butler’s action sequel “Den of Thieves 2: Pantera,” repped by Sierra/Affinity, which also handles pandemic-set “Rich Flu,” with Pike.
AGC Studios is launching WWII espionage tale “All That I Am,” starring Wood, plus Chris Pine’s directorial debut “Poolman.” FilmNation brings the Jonestown Massacre-themed “White Night,” featuring Chloë Grace Moretz.
Patrick Wachsberger’s Picture Perfect Federation is bowing college-admissions thriller “Bad Genius,” while Endeavor Content launces the Anne Hathaway-topper “Eileen.” Millennium is selling Renny Harlin’s actioner “The Bricklayer.”
These projects are mostly thrillers. “There’s a broader uncertainty in the theatrical community as to when more mature audiences are going to return to theaters,” said AGC Studios’ Stuart Ford. “So naturally enough, both sellers and buyers in the interim are leaning towards action, horror and thrillers that can still reliably both drive box office audiences under 30 and generate downstream revenue.”
Added Garrett: “Largely, people feel the need to satisfy the demand of the transactional and SVOD platforms. They are looking for films that are ‘impactful,’ so they tend to be genre-focused — whether they be thrillers, action, comedy or horror, which are easily packageable and marketable.” Mister Smith is introducing “Latchkey Kids,” with Idina Menzel, Elsie Fisher and Alan S. Kim, to the EFM.
Of the U.K. companies, Protagonist has announced Scott Free-produced thriller “Berlin Nobody,” with Eric Bana, and Nora Fingscheidt’s “The Outrun,” with Saoirse Ronan, “a beautiful film about the power of nature to heal and restore hope,” said Hamilton.
Cornerstone has supernatural horror “Starve Acre” and Kevin Macdonald’s “The Iceman,” starring Joseph Fiennes as extraordinary athlete Wim Hof. Laura Dern and Benedict Cumberbatch head Justin Kurzel’s sci-fi drama “Morning,” from HanWay Films.
Many titles will find buyers. “Despite a degree of virtual market fatigue and a backlog of pre-sold films set to go before the cameras, there’s still solid appetite in the market for pre-sales titles,” said Ford.
“With fewer finished independent movies coming through the pipeline over the past 18 months, most distributors have availability on their slate in many cases for late 2022 and certainly for 2023. Even those that have full slates consider it imperative to maintain their bond with the top tier of indie financiers/sellers so will keep pre-buying,” he added.
One big question is how active the streaming platforms may be at Berlin. Amazon reportedly has international territories on “Ferrari.” “In this day and age, the streamers will try to snatch up anything that is trending. I’m sure they’ll all have acquisition groups at Berlin,” Moszkowicz said.
There’s also a sense of a new dawn, as companies look beyond COVID-19.
“In many, many ways we are seeing the light at the final end of the tunnel. People will go back to the movies and want broader content,” says Weber, citing Global Screen’s WWII refugee drama “The Path,” “something a kid or their grandfather can watch.”
“We’re definitely looking at more films at script stage in general this year than we ever have before,” said Arianna Bocco at IFC Films. “Part of that is because our strategy is changing, partly because we’re coming off COVID, and I think people are really gearing up to put more stuff into production now.”
Big market questions remain, however.
“The movies that worked last year theatrically were all big studio tentpoles,” said Moszkowicz. “The big question for independent distributors is: Are you going to get into smaller, niche movies with a very defined audience and maximum $10 million-$15 million budgets which are hard to eventize?”