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Cannes 2014: No hyper Marché but solid sales

International trade was low-key in contrast to the fanfare that surrounded US activity, yet the market correction that has brought more real projects and less bombast augurs well for savvy operators.

A flood of US deals combined with headline-grabbing activity on Story Of Your Life defied early expectations and set the tone for a solid week of market business.

A handful of must-haves translated into a torrent of sales for the likes of A Monster Calls from Lionsgate International, The Dressmaker from Embankment, StudioCanal’s Bastille Day, eOne’s Eye In The Sky, Foresight Unlimited’s Inversion, IM Global’s Civilian and Sea Of Trees from Alex Walton’s new sales company Bloom.

International trade was low-key in contrast to the fanfare that surrounded US activity. Open Road acquired Nightcrawler from ambitious Bold Films, whose The Coup went to the Weinsteins.

The latter bought Sing Street and shelled out $12m for Lion, while A24 used its deep pockets to buy Room from busy FilmNation, Son Of A Gun from Altitude and Atom Egoyan’s competition entry The Captive from eOne International.

SPC bought Ken Loach’s competition entry Jimmy’s Hall from Wild Bunch.

IFC, statistically the most voracious buyer of Cannes films over the past five years, will most likely announce deals in the days ahead.

Paramount paid an MG of a little under $20m for North American and Chinese rights to Story Of Your Life, cementing its relationship with FilmNation, who pre-sold Nebraska and handles select territories on Mark Wahlberg crime thriller The Gambler.

Sony brought most of the remaining territories on Story and picked up the UK and other majors on Bill Murray comedy Rock The Kasbah from QED International.

The irony of the market was that the scarcity of locomotives was not for lack of available equity. The talent exodus to TV and over-reliance of international buyers on old, proven names made it a challenge to package projects.

“It feels like a missed opportunity,” said Lotus Entertainment co-founder Bill Johnson, who reported solid business on Hologram For The King with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry starrer Kidnap.

“It’s our first market with the two labels and there’s been ongoing activity on both sides,” said eOne Films International president Harold van Lier, referring to the eOne and Seville International slates. Xavier Dolan’s competition entry Mommy drew a strong response on the Seville side.

“We weren’t looking to bring volume to the marketplace,” said Walton, who wasted little time assembling his new company Bloom with the backing of Garmin heir Ken Kao.

Walton focused his energies on promoting Sea Of Trees, arguably the prestige title of the market, and brought Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey and director Gus van Sant to meet buyers.

The initial slate includes action thriller The Hunters, with John Moore (A Good Day To Die Hard) attached to direct.

Drilling beneath the bedrock of buyer caution revealed reticence in Germany prompted by picky broadcasters and conservatism in Russia, where rumours of a quota system and economic sanctions in light of the annexation of Crimea made buyers less trigger-happy.

However a forensic approach does not preclude success.

“What is now a stark realisation is the value of a particular picture in each territory can be calculated with a degree of accuracy,” said Aldamisa International COO Jere Hausfater, adding that the independent business “continues to flourish”.

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