As the global recession forces the business to take a long, hard look at how it operates, a steely focus has coalesced around the market stands and hotel corridors on the Croisette here in Cannes.

Heading into the second week slimmed down buyer delegations – some estimate attendance has plummeted by 30% — continue to train their sights on completed product with broad theatrical appeal and shy away on the whole from pre-buys wtih weaker elements and uncertain production schedules.

This year new US product is thin on the ground, but the stalwarts remain busy. Summit’s Twilight franchise and new Robert Pattinson romance Remember Me are causing a stir, as are Mandate International’s The Baster and Five Killers, Focus Features International’s upcoming Mike Leigh project, and Hyde Park International’s Unbound Captives.

Buzz surrounds IM Global’s Bitch Slap, Odd Lot International’s Rabbit Hole which sold to Haut Et Court in France, Magnolia International’s Humpday, The Crazies from Paramount Vantage International, Bold Films’ 3D project The Hole, and Myriad Pictures’ Tribeca pick-up Serious Moonlight.

Elsewhere, buyers are circling Bahman Ghobadi’s Nobody Knows About The Persian Cats sold by Wild Bunch and CJ Entertainment’s Mother from Bong Joon-ho, both of which play in Un Certain Regard and have drawn heavy interest from US distributors, as well as TF1’s Micmacs, Icon International’s Oranges And Sunshine, and West End Films’ Chatroom.

Naturally challenges remain for companies with muted product flow who, like everybody in the market, face difficulties from the depressed DVD and TV markets. American sellers and Russian buyers continue their stand-off over price renegotiations, which top executives from Central Partnership and Paradise Group warned could escalate into a boycott.

Asian companies are reporting that business is slow, although India has benefited from a flood of stock market capital last year and China, the Middle East and Singapore are awash with public and/or private production funding.

Many companies from the region are becoming less dependent on foreign sales as box office continues to grow and in territories such as China it has become possible to recoup a $10-15m budget from a domestic theatrical release alone.

But Cannes remains a crucial platform for arthouse product and it is difficult to imagine launching a title like Mother, for example, without the buzz generated by a prestigious Western film festival.

“The numbers are lower than they used to be but they’re decent,” Simon Crowe of UK-based SC Films said of business overall. “In this market, you’ve got to be realistic. No-one will be overpaying. The signs look
positive for AFM.”