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Slim pickings for EFM buyers

A slow EFM punctuated by just a handful of commercial must-haves and a subdued reaction to the festival selection turned hopeful thoughts to France and the promise of Cannes.

Among the few heavy hitters that sold widely were Focus Features International’s [FFI] Kill The Messenger, IM Global’s Blood Sisters, FilmNation’s Solace, Mister Smith’s Love, Rosie and eOne Films International’s Queen Of The Night.

The viability of commercial fare in Berlin has grown in recent years but the proximity to the AFM and holiday season means February can be a tough month when it comes to new packages.

Three potential heavyweights that dropped on the eve of the market were Lionsgate’s Reese Witherspoon starrer The Good Lie and Exclusive Media’s crime sagas Black Mass with Johnny Depp and Dark Places, starring Charlize Theron.

Theron’s attendance was a smart way to direct attention to a project most buyers would have had little time to prepare for by the time they set off for Berlin. Driven by eleventh-hour packaging from the agents in Los Angeles, the influx of late arrivals is problematic for buyers who have little time to read a script or run numbers with head office back home.

“We have got to find a better way of doing this,” said FFI chief Alison Thompson, whose Kill The Messenger came together late in the day. “If you bring these movies late to the market it can impact how you sell.”

“It’s a doubled-edged sword,” said The Exchange chief Brian O’Shea, who closed multiple territories on Sundance hit The Spectacular Now. “If it clicks it can be exciting but if it doesn’t it can create a negative effect.”

Several quality arthouse titles prospered such as StudioCanal’s Our Kind Of Traitor, SND’s Yves Saint Laurent biopic, Le Pacte’s COmpetition entry The Nun and TrustNordisk’s Nymphomaniac.

TrustNordisk titillated buyers with footage of Lars von Trier’s upcoming sexual saga, triggering one of only a few US deals here as Magnolia pounced. Roadside Attractions snapped up Competition hit Gloria and SPC moved on The Invisible Woman. Grace Of Monaco and Diana were also in play.

However the headline grabber was TWC’s move on US rights to Blood Sisters in a deal with IM Global that resulted in what is believed to be one of the biggest ever to emerge from the EFM. Harvey Weinstein pursued the potential young adult franchise with zeal and is understood to have committed between $30-35m in p&a in advance of a Feb 14 2014 release.

Aside from this, the general pattern was one of wariness as cautious buyers looking for slots beyond Q1 2014 were unwilling to pledge MGs and slow to get out their wallets.

“You need to have big commercial or strong arthouse titles that stand out,” said Independent managing director Andrew Orr. “For example, we have distinctive titles Metro Manila, which won an audience prize at Sundance and The Motel Life, which won the Audience Award in Rome.”

The Berlinale press office said 890 films in the market represented a gain on last year. There were 455 participating companies in the market and 1,690 buyers. The number of total participants is estimated to be about 7,650.

EFM head Beki Probst told Screen: “Considering that we are in a difficult period, we are all very happy that this market went well. The attendance was good, the buzz was good, we can’t ask for more.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • I'm surprised that no trade paper has paid much attention to the recent problems in the UK and France and the impact that these have had on distributors in the those countries, and therefore sales agents and overall business.

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