AFM 2014 has seen steady business on a number of indie packages, many of which came together at the eleventh hour, with plenty more business on the horizon.
However, market buzz has been dominated by a few must-have titles and a number of buyers have been left frustrated by the dearth of mid-range propositions.
One acquisitions veteran told Screen: “It has been slow with little great stuff but when there is a great film buyers will pay for it provided the economics aren’t crazy.”
Among in-demand titles have been Bloom’s The Nice Guys, with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe and thriller Unlocked, FilmNation’s as-yet-untitled Woody Allen film, The Exchange’s Michael, Sierra/Affinity’s The Godmother, Lotus’ Replicas and The Crucifixion and IM Global’s The Secret in Their Eyes remake.
IM Global’s $65m Civil War drama The Free State of Jones, set to star Matthew McConnaughey, also had tongues wagging.
Among international sellers, Pathe’s Florence, starring Meryl Streep, has gone down a storm, with multi-million dollar deals understood to have closed in the likes of Australia/New Zealand, while Wild Bunch’s Edward Snowden drama cut a dash, securing a US deal with Open Road/Endgame.
Protagonist has seen good demand for its diverse slate and Hengameh Panahi’s Celluloid Dreams fielded plenty of interest in Jacques Audiard’s new untitled drama.
“It has felt very busy,” said eOne International president Harold Van Lier, who saw strong demand for the likes of Captain Fantastic and Eye in the Sky as well as the Seville International slate.
“While Toronto is getting busier it still remains primarily a festival not a market. There is a much more focused environment here.”
With the home entertainment market increasingly fragmented, theatrical gems are ever-more important for buyers and sellers alike.
“The eye of the needle is smaller,” commented David Garrett, whose drama The Man Who Knew Infinity sold well. “People are looking for strong theatrical potential. The pendulum has swung because of ancillary revenues dwindling.”
“The markets this year have been particularly competitive,” said Al Munteanu, CEO of SquareOne. “There are fewer strong, high profile titles so they get snapped up very quickly and AFM has been no different. Our goal is to acquire titles that our smart, intelligent audiences want to see so we have to be more aggressive to secure some of the more prominent titles and it has paid off. It’s been a good AFM for us, acquiring Unlocked, Hunter’s Prayer and The Squad, among others.”
Above all, AFM 2014 will likely be remembered for the market launch of TWC’s Quentin Tarantino western The Hateful Eight, which confirmed cast, including the addition of Channing Tatum, and saw Tarantino make a special appearance to entice buyers.
Lofty asking prices ($12m in Germany, for example) didn’t deter would be suitors with strong demand creating a ripple effect across the market as buyers have hung on in the hope of securing the film and so been unable to commit resources elsewhere.
In a playful stunt in the Tarantino vein one large acquisition group even offered TWC a vial of blood as a symbol of being prepared to offer their ‘last drop of blood’ for the film.
Netflix remains a boon for some and a burden for others. The rumour in the halls yesterday was that TWC was even holding back a number of home entertainment rights for Netflix on The Hateful Eight - thus holding up deals - while more buyers are increasingly having to acquire with Netflix slots in mind.
Among international market trends, while Russia’s animation business picks up steam, the territory’s buying appetite remains a concern.
“Russia is in a real tight hole,” explained one sales vet. “Some big companies are having to renegotiate deals. There is plenty of political uncertainty in the territory, quota or no quota. They are nervous about the future and fewer companies are buying.”
A number of sellers were enthused by a resurgent Italy and China continues to generate partnerships, while the strength of the dollar left some international buyers in a bind.