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Cannes 2013 buoyed by US buys

The tidal wave of product that swept up on Cannes’ shore on the eve of the market made buyers warier than ever, however the result was steady international trade punctuated by notable US buys.

FilmNation virtually sold out on one of the few must-have titles Selfless and there was plenty of other material to entice buyers, from Focus Features International’s (FFI) Black Sea and Amy Winehouse project to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 1 and 2, the key driver in a record market for Lionsgate that generated more than $250m in sales.

FFI co-president Alison Thompson said that more than ever there was the need to bring quality theatrical-level entertainment to market with talent attached, good narrative and at the right price. “The old programmer TV business has gone the same way the video business went about 15 years ago,” said Thompson.

Foresight Unlimited and IM Global flew in A-list talent for the buyers. Justin Timberlake talked up Foresight’s Spinning Gold, buoyed by an early multi-territory deal with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions.

The biopic of record industry executive Neil Bogart will go into production in early 2014 and has deep personal significance for Foresight founder Mark Damon, who worked in the film industry with both the late Bogart and his son, Spinning Gold screenwriter Timothy Scott Bogart.

Martin Scorsese’s visit to the Croisette produced a packed event staged by IM Global CEO Stuart Ford in support of the Andrew Garfield drama Silence. On the corporate level IM Global augmented its international output network with the Impuls deal in Switzerland and an announcement is expected imminently on who will head the new Beijing office.

Aside from IM Global’s Cannes slate, Ford, president Jonathan Deckter and the team had their hands full shepherding product from associate companies Blumhouse International and Mundial.

Content Film head Jamie Carmichael closed more than 20 territory sales on Vertigo Film’s Pudsey: The Movie. “There was nothing else like it,” said Carmichael. “Pudsey did his photocall on the Majestic Beach and we’re well on the way to transforming him from a famous dog in the UK to the most famous dig in the world.” Carmichael also reported a strong response to the Preferred Film & TV venture with Preferred Content.

Good Universe registered enthusiastic reponses to Candy Store, Panorama Media delighted buyers with Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, Nu Image introduced Survivors and Voltage Pictures talked up Testament. Relativity International kicked off a two-film deal with Atlas Independent that included Mojave and The Man On Carrion Road.

Hot UK sellers included Goodbye Christopher Robin and Our Robot Overlords from Pinewood Films and Embankment’s The Dressmaker and The Kidnapping Of Freddy Heineken. Elsewhere, eOne’s Maps To The Stars enjoyed success as did Pathé’s Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and Pioneer from TrustNordisk.

Jewel thieves, rain and talk of cultural exception were not the only prevalent elements. Financiers were everywhere on the Croisette, huddling in hotel bars, milling around at splashy beach parties and holding court in loftier perches at the Hotel duCap.

Worldview Entertainment from the US and the UK’s Wentworth Media have been making noise – Worldview invested in a trio of films in official selection and was celebrating the biggest US deal of the festival on Wednesday as Lionsgate/Roadside paid over $2m for Blood Ties.

Buyers remain as focused as ever on ferreting out the real money and the well capitalised sales companies. The Solution Entertainment Group further bolstered confidence among buyers when it closed a $50m fund, while Michael Benaroya and Miscellaneous Entertainment’s International Film Trust has piqued interest with a maiden slate that includes Cell and The Toxic Avenger with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“There was only one must-have title this time, which is unusual,” said The Solution co-founder Lisa Wilson. “You have to be very focused and cannot come with 20 titles; rather you need the must-have. Clients lost their TV deals so they’re only looking for the cherry.”

Primeridian Entertainment backed by Russia-born producer-director-financier Arcadiy Golubovich was in town seeking investment opportunities and meeting with filmmakers. “A lot of new companies have opened in the last year,” said Golubovich, “and Cannes allows you to meet them and find out what they want.”

Exclusive Media was talking up its Pelé biopic and Passengers and the latter inspired The Weinstein Company to carve out a US rights deal with representatives CAA.

The Weinsteins were the busiest buyers on the Croisette. In a pair of separate deals they paid $6.5m for US, Canadian and Spanish rights to Philomena and acquired US, Latin American, Australian, Russian and German rights on Suite Francaise.

Sister company RADiUS-TWC acquired North American rights to Jeremy Saulnier’s Quinzaine entry Blue Ruin and Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut Man Of Tai Chi. SPC took The Past and Sundance Selects acquired Blue Is The Warmest Color.

eOne acquired Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Diana from Embankment and Ecosse Films and will distribute later this year in what could become another awards run for Naomi Watts after The Impossible last year. Ambitious Canadian distributor Mongrel Media was in acquisitive mood throughout the festival and announced a late haul of four titles: Jimmy P., Like Father, Like Son, as well as Young & Beautiful and Bastards.

In the broader international arena, David Garrett’s Mister Smith closed multiple output deals for the DreamWorks slate, while busy Fox International Productions announced in Cannes it will remake Metro Manila and, separately, two new German titles — Playing Doctor and children’s book adaptation Rico, Oskar And The Pasta Detectives.

QED International, whose Brad Pitt war epic Fury would have been the monster title of the market had Sony not virtually taken it off the shelf with a multi-territory buy in the weeks leading up to Cannes, struck a strategic alliance with China’s Huayi Brothers.

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