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Scarcity of AFM must-haves drives up prices

In contrast to the deadly Storm Sandy that ravaged the East Coast on the eve of the AFM and delayed the arrival of a number of attendees, the pace of the market itself some 3,000 miles away in Santa Monica has been far more languid.

While the digital domain continues to evolve, theatrical playability remains of the utmost importance and A-list product with broad commercial appeal have been thin on the ground.

Heading into the week it will be interesting to see who steps up to pay top dollar for the three must-haves: Red Granite International’s Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio reunion on Wolf Of Wall Street, Lionsgate’s Transcendence with Johnny Depp and StudioCanal’s Non-Stop starring in-form Liam Neeson.

Asking prices have been high – particularly for China and Latin America – and the question is, will acquisitions teams stump up at a time when pipelines, engorged by the recent glut of product, are full through to early 2014 in some cases.

“There’s not that much demand for that many movies so for the movies where there is demand you can do your business,” said FilmNation CEO Glen Basner, who has been busy with The Rover, Nebraska, Genius and Hold On To Me.

The usual suspects Spain and Italy remain challenging and there are growing concerns over German TV, which may in part explain why Paramount approached Sierra/Affinity to sell the studio’s dark awards contender Flight in Germany and Spain.

“The market is increasingly difficult because of depressed economies, particularly in Europe,” said Mister Smith chief David Garrett (pictured), who notched up UK, French and Australian sales among others on the new Al Pacino, Julianne Moore and Jeremy Renner comedy-drama Imagine. “Buyers are becoming more risk-averse. They are looking at everything more forensically than before.

“It’s still a great business but everyone now has to be smarter, more focused and more intelligent.”

“It’s great to see all the key buyers here at AFM and ready to do business for the right titles,” said Exclusive Media president of international sales and distribution Alex Walton. “We launched Parkland and it has been very well received. Having our producing partners from Playtone - Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman - meet buyers was a big validation of the commitment of all involved in this important film.”

Mimi Steinbauer president and CEO of Radiant Films international, noted: “Good market for films with name cast. We had three new titles this year that we feel fit that bill and really enhanced our slate – As Cool As I Am, Decoding Annie Parker and Trust Me. Buyers are being selective but definitely buying.”

“Business has been solid this AFM but I would not characterise it as an exceptional market,” said Bankside Films head of sales and marketing Stephen Kelliher.

“Buyers continue to be highly selective with a focus on commercial elements and known directors. The top end of the market is healthy where there is a theatrical component to the deal. Business is slimmer for smaller titles which continue to be challenged by the decline in DVD and TV values and the continuing inflexibility of the windows system.”

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