Much of my Cannes coverage has focused on the ferocious bidding battles among American distributors for films like The Wettest County, The Iron Lady and Looper. Even though DVD is still in the toilet and nobody can quite say why the business has rebounded, there seems to be enthusiasm in all quarters. Both offshore distributors and sellers are having a rip roaring good time here. How good? I’ll focus on Alliance Films as an example and Xavier Marchand, who as president of worldwide distribution for Alliance is buying pictures for its distribution companies in Canada (Alliance and Alliance Vivafilm), UK (Momentum Pictures), and Spain (Aurum Producciones).
He has closed 14 films, twice what he and chairman Victor Loewy expected. Marchand thought it might get busier than in past years, when he was sent a dozen scripts to read the weekend before flying here and found many of the late entries to be tantalizing. He surmises this could be an exceptionally strong year because studios are so tent-pole obsessed they’ve put in turnaround scripts that fall a cut below. They drew strong casts, and four of them have $100 million price tags: Relativity’s Snow White, Pompeii, Ender’s Game and Cloud Atlas. Whether it’s that or the strengthening economy that has brought new money to the table, he and other distributors have been feasting on projects, many sold on the basis of scripts and sizzle reels. So far, Alliance has bought:
* Rights in Canada, UK and Spain on Ender’s Game, the adaptation of the seminal Orson Scott Card scifi novel that will be directed by X-Men: Origins helmer Gavin Hood for 2013, with Summit distributing in the US.
* UK and Spain rights on Great Hope Springs, the David Frankel-directed film that Sony Pictures just bought in North America, with Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell starring.
* Canada rights for Iron Lady, with Streep playing Margaret Thatcher in a film acquired during the weekend by The Weinstein Company. Alliance bought it before footage was shown, the execs breathing a sigh of relief when the viewed Streep as the iconic pol.
* UK and Canada on Seven Psychopaths, written and directed by In Bruges‘ Martin McDonagh, with Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell and Colin Farrell in the cast.
* UK on Quartet, the Dustin Hoffman-directed BBC Films production that stars Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay. In a retirement home for opera singers, some of the residents plan one last great performance.
* Spain and Canada on Cry Macho, the Arnold Schwarzenegger action film being sold by QED International.
* Canada, UK and Spain on Snitch, which will star Dwayne Johnson as the father of a kid who’s set up by a snitch on a drug bust. The father offers to infiltrate a drug ring to gain information he can use as snitch currency to free his son. He’s manipulated by the FBI before they’ll reduce his son’s sentence.
*Canada and UK on the Kevin MacDonald-directed How I Live Now.
*Canada, UK and Spain on the F. Gary Gray-directed The Last Days of American Crime, with Sam Worthington starring.
*Canada, UK, Spain on the James Wan-directed Spectre, which will star Nicole Kidman.
*Spain on The In-Betweeners, a bigscreen version of the decadent British series focusing on kids between high school and college who head to a Greek island for debauchery.
*Spain on Pompeii, the Paul W.S. Anderson-directed Roman Era tale that climaxes with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
*Spain on Tarzan 3D, Constantin’s animated feature.
*Spain on Mortal Instruments, the Constantin pic that Screen Gems will release in the U.S.