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Cannes market boosted by festival hits, $100m studio-level projects

High deal volume, a compelling roster of commercial must-haves and the return of a competitive US marketplace coupled with a renewed appetite for Japanese pre-buys were among the highpoints of a stirring Cannes market.

A vibrant festival selection buoyed spirits and sparked the customary flow of arthouse deals, however it was the aggressive response to a raft of studio-level product from buyers eager to fill 2012 slots that energised the independent sector.

As the studios withdraw from edgier fare, financiers have proved willing to step into the fray. “But can the indies step up or will the studios mop up after the festival?” one buyers’ rep asked. That said a quartet of $100m projects virtually sold out: Summit International’s Pompeii, FilmNation’s Relativity title The Brothers Grimm: Snow White, Focus Features International’s Cloud Atlas and Sierra/Affinity’s Ender’s Game got tongues wagging with budgets in the region of $100m.

Buyers also flocked to Exclusive Film International’s End Of Watch, IM Global’s broadest ever slate led by The Last Days Of American Crime, Welcome To The Punch and Spectre, Inferno’s Stephenie Meyer project The Host and Mandate Pictures’ comedy Great Hope Springs, sold by Lionsgate.

American buyers were notably engaged in the big game hunt, as illustrated by several announcements over the past few days. FilmDistrict moved on Rian Johnson’s sci-fi opus Looper and Gabriele Muccino’s rom-com Playing The Field, while Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road backed by the AMC and Regal theatre chains will kick off with a $25m p&a spend and 2,000-theatre summer release for Jason Statham thriller Killer Elite.

New company Red Granite Pictures is on board The Wolf Of Wall Street with Leonardo Di Caprio – previously set up at Warner Bros – and Megan Ellison’s financier Annapurna Films has stirred the pot by reviving the Terminator franchise and closing a US deal with The Weinstein Company on John Hillcoat’s The Wettest County.

The big international hits here included Wild Bunch’s adored competition entry The Artist, Pathe’s The Iron Lady, Gaumont’s The Conquest and Independent’s competition drama We Need To Talk About Kevin.

“We built a very solid slate which we will roll out across the three Alliance territories,” acquisitions chief chief Robert Walak of the UK’s Momentum, flush with cash after the success of The King’s Speech, said. Olivier Albou of French sales company Other Angle, here with the third entry in its Would I Lie To You hit comedy franchise, added: “We believe the crisis is coming to an end and that when we have the right product, there are people to buy it.”

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