Buyers flocked to projects with big stars attached and clear theatrical potential in a Cannes market that proved tough for smaller projects and quiet on the US domestic front. Jeremy Kay reports.

Star-driven genre titles with theatrical potential predictably ruled the market as Cannes 2010 entered the final stretch.

The premiere sales companies did a roaring trade on marquee titles with buyers eager to fill late 2011 slots and programme 2012. Inferno’s Brad Pitt adventure The Lost City Of Z drew plenty of heat, as did Summit’s The Three Musketeers 3D, while Lionsgate’s Helen Lee Kim reported strong sales across the board.

“This was all about genre, line-up and perceived theatrical playability,” Affinity International sales head Brian O’Shea said after flying in Nicolas Winding Refn to introduce the popular Ryan Gosling project Drive. IM Global sold out the Jason Statham thriller Safe and Focus Features International sold heavily across the board and concluded a major deal with Sony for most of the world on Hanna.

Sony’s move was emblematic of aggressive international buys by US studios keen to fill lean pipelines. Warner Bros took major territories from a resurgent Morgan Creek on the Jim Sheridan thriller Dream House, while Universal closed a significant deal on Relativity’s 3D epic Immortals.

Smaller projects proved tough sells to acquisitions teams on the hunt for titles with clear marketing hooks and, in this regard, the balance of power switched from sellers to buyers, who in some cases were able to make a minimum p&a commitment without an MG.

The US domestic acquisitions front was quiet. Sony Pictures Classics took North American rights to Mike Leigh’s Palme d’Or frontrunner Another Year, while IFC acquired US rights to Xavier Dolan’s Un Certain Regard entry Heartbeats and Relativity Media swooped on US rights to the sci-fi market title Skyline.