As Cannes 2009 approached its final days a clear picture emerged of the haves and have-nots, as streamlined teams of buyers focused in on broadly commercial fare with theatrical potential.
Summit International did a roaring trade on its Twilight sequel New Moon and the new Robert Pattinson title Remember Me, while Focus Features International virtually sold out on the upcoming Kevin Macdonald Roman Britain epic The Eagle Of The Ninth.
IM Global diversified its slate and sold out its grindhouse homage Bitch Slap, closing deals here with Momentum in the UK, Splendid in Germany, among many others.
Meanwhile The Weinstein Company’s David Glasser was close to finalising key sales in Germany, France, Spain and South Korea on the upcoming boxing drama The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.
Major North American deals were thin on the ground. IFC, hungry as ever to fill its VOD pipeline, swooped on Lars Von Trier’s controversial Antichrist and Ken Loach’s far more palatable crowd-pleaser Looking For Eric. Buyers continued to circle Jaques Audiard’s much fancied prison saga A Prophet sold by Celluloid Dreams, Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother, and Bahman Ghobadi’s No One Knows About The Persian Cats, which Wild Bunch is selling.
But while the artistry of this year’s competition films appears to be beyond doubt, the nature of their commercial appeal dictated the pace and level of business. “The word for the US buyers’ market here would be ‘dismal’,” one prominent executive said. “If last year’s high grosser from Cannes was The Class at $3.7m in the North America, I’d say there’s no film this year that could do that.”
As expected Japan, Spain, Italy, South Korea and Russia, which has been buying aggressively here, were tricky for the sellers, however business was solid on real projects. Like their North American counterparts, leading international sales agents like Wild Bunch, Media Asia Distribution, Hanway and Icon International fared well. Hit UK titles include Chatroom, Black Death, and Oranges And Sunshine.
“The market has been slower than last year, with less pre-set meetings and walk-ins,” Media Asia’s Fred Tsui said. “But the quality of the meetings remains high. Over all, it’s been quite satisfactory for us.”
Nicolas Brigaud-Robert of Films Distribution said business was “in line with expectations”, while Ealing Distribution head of sales Natalie Brenner added: “There have been none of the time waster meetings and the recession has weeded out all the chancers. It’s all about product.”