On the eve of EFM, US sellers were voicing a familiar gripe about the lack of large commercial packages due to the agents’ prior preoccupation with getting business done in Sundance. At least everyone enjoyed the longer gap between the two events, restored after last year’s mad dash from Park City to Berlin.
While Berlin seldom throws up as many big packages as one would see in Cannes or AFM, AGC Studios is producing and selling the Sylvester Stallone action sci-fi Little America, and more titles will emerge. Streaming platforms will be in the mix of buyers.
Sundance showed how dominant the streamers can be. All major acquisitions over $8m in Park City were driven with the end goal of subscriber satisfaction in mind: Hulu and Neon on Palm Springs; Amazon Studios on Uncle Frank; Apple and A24 on Boys State; Netflix on The 40-Year-Old Version; Hulu on Bad Hair, HBO Max with On The Record and even, indirectly, Disney-owned Searchlight with The Night House.
It has been argued the reason Searchlight Pictures forked out $12m for worldwide rights to horror film The Night House was because executives there knew director David Bruckner (The Ritual, V/H/S segment) was familiar to Netflix audiences. Searchlight now has an appealing content creator for subscribers of its Disney stablemate Hulu after the film’s theatrical release. Alex Walton, head of international film sales at Endeavor Content, says: “With a lot of films, box office has never consistently proven itself, so streaming is a good place for some of them to reach a wider audience.”
Yet the presence of Searchlight on a film like The Night House means something. All content needs to have awareness, particularly on the often hard-to-navigate SVoD interfaces. “The theatrical window gives the film greater value in its second cycle,” notes Walton.
In fact several high-level executives believe it might not be uncommon in the near future to see deal memos stipulating a marketing campaign across relevant media that could encompass billboards for a streaming-only release.
At a time when market chiefs are reviewing their events, many are confident they still serve a function. Arclight Films’ Gary Hamilton is screening Sundance premiere Possessor in Berlin, along with Here Are The Young Men, Let It Snow, and Tomiris. Particular Crowd, Turner Latin America’s new original film division, has taken Latin American rights to Possessor and Daniel Radcliffe political thriller Escape From Pretoria, which opens in the UK via Signature Films and US through Momentum on March 6.
Specialised buyers proliferate in Berlin. New York-based Kino Lorber has acquired four of the last five Golden Bear winners. CEO Richard Lorber is hopeful about the level of available titles in official selection. “Given the fact there wasn’t that much to buy at Sundance because many titles arrived with distribution in place, it’s encouraging to see such a wide array of high-end auteurs back in circulation without the thumbprint of a streamer on them,” he says. “We’re excited about that.”