Buying is already getting underway in Cannes with films acquired on the eve and first day of the market. There is a lot of quality product out there and many distributors with already packed slates are eager not to miss an opportunity. Execs are calling it a buyer’s market, but one important company may be sitting this one out. Here’s a look at some key players in town this year:
The Weinstein Company: Harvey Weinstein often sets the pace of the market here in Cannes. When he spends, everybody else seems to also. If that holds true this year, it will mean vibrant activity on the Croisette. On the eve of this year’s Cannes, The Weinstein Co announced it had picked up Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires, the Australian feel-good film that’s screening in official selection. They’re also close to a deal on hunt for Bin Laden pic Code Name Geronimo. The company has 2 pictures in the competition, Lawless, which it acquired last year (when it was still called The Wettest County In The World), and Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly (which also used to go by a different name, Cogan’s Trade). The timing of the Sapphires announcement is reminiscent of the Weinsteins’ pick-up of The Artist last year. TWC has a packed roster for 2012, but COO David Glasser tells me, “Last year we had a busy slate going into the market and we ended up buying. We’ll buy for this year if the picture is there, but we also have a keen eye for 2013.” Last year, TWC’s deal on The Artist came after the company already had Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master in its pocket, but that didn’t stop pick-ups of The Iron Lady and Lawless. “We’re as aggressive as the product allows us to be,” says Glasser. TWC also has August Osage County with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts and David O Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook coming up.
Related: Cannes 2012: Producers To Watch
Lionsgate: Patrick Wachsberger is looking ahead to 2014. The takeover of Summit by Lionsgate which was announced in January has had the international biz concerned the consolidation would eliminate an important supplier of product as well as an important US partner. Wachsberger tells me at Cannes he doesn’t think “we’re up to a lot and the why of it is we have something like 18 movies to release. So, frankly, we have no need for product. Of course if there’s something really great, we’ll go for it.” The ‘new’ Lionsgate also recently greenlighted a handful of movies that includes sequel RED 2, the Dirty Dancing remake and has Hunger Games follow-up Catching Fire which is finalizing deals in the remaining foreign territories. Wachsberger says that the influx of new sales companies with such a variety of product leads him to wonder where the films are going to go domestically. “There’s not that many companies. We might have great opportunities of picking up movies that we like, but buyers are going to be able to tell distributors they’re going to have to put up their own P&A. For us and the other domestic distributors it’s gonna be fantastic.” He adds that for 2014, “we definitely need product. We’re loaded for 2012 and I don’t think we have any room left for 2013, but you always find room for something great.”
Related: Cannes 2012: Directors To Watch
Sony Pictures Classics: Sony Pictures Classics already has two competition films locked, but company chiefs Tom Bernard and Michael Barker are typically very acquisitive at the festival. On day one, they acquired Susanne Bier’s Love Is All You Need from TrustNordisk and starring Pierce Brosnan. SPC previously released Bier’s In A Better World. Their two competition films, Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone and Michael Haneke’s Amour were acquired well ahead of Cannes leading execs to wonder if they’ll be moving on projects in the next week. They do have room on the slate for this year and 2013, SPC’s Dylan Leiner tells me. “It’s Cannes, so we expect the unexpected. The duty of Cannes is you have to be ready to change course on a dime.” He says they’re just getting started at the market but, “there are definitely films that are exciting to us, both in the main categories and in the market. There’s a lot of indie productions all over the world and a lot of equity money and co-production money going into filmmaking which is a good thing.”
Related: Cannes 2012: Actors To Watch
FilmDistrict: At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, FilmDistrict was emerging as a major buyer and distributor of independent films. With Bob Berney as his distributor, and the hit horror film Insidious under his belt, Peter Schlessel was in the mix on numerous high-profile films, and walked away with distribution rights to Looper, one of the plum titles of the festival, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. After an unexpected detour when Berney and his wife Jeanne exited, FilmDistrict 2.0 has its coming out party at Cannes. With a lineup chock full of star driven films, Schlessel’s division has an opportunity to restock films it can release next year. The exit of the Berneys seemed reminiscent of when they left Bill Pohlad’s upstart distribution company Apparition, which folded shortly after. Schlessel, though, vowed that FilmDistrict would not skip a beat and that he would have a new distribution team in place in time for Cannes. He has done just that. Schlessel hired DreamWorks/Sony veteran Christine Birch to be his president of marketing, and then hired former MGM and Paramount veteran Jim Orr to be president of distribution. FilmDistrict has continued to be a buyer, including the Sundance acquisition Safety Not Guaranteed. While he was restaffing, Schlessel off-loaded several films to be released by Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road and some by TriStar. FilmDistrict returns to the releasing business on Christmas Day with the Gerard Butler soccer comedy Playing The Field and follows next year with the Taylor Hackford-directed Parker, which stars Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez.
LD Entertainment: In December 2011, Mickey Liddell launched indie distributor LD Entertainment with veteran David Dinerstein at the helm. At the first Cannes for the new company, Dinerstein tells me he’s “very bullish on the market and there’s a great deal of interesting projects in various stages of production and pre-production that on paper are very strong.” The company’s first title to go out is William Friedkin’s Killer Joe which the MPAA slapped with an NC-17 rating. It’s also got horror pics The Collection and Black Rock, which it picked up at Sundance, on deck. Drama Disconnect with Alexander Skarsgard, Jason Bateman and Andrea Riseborough is in post and shooting is underway on Therese, the Jessica Lange/Elizabeth Olsen thriller that Dinerstein says he hopes may be done in time to sneak into awards season. Regarding his Cannes plans, Dinerstein says, “One of the reasons we’re here is that on things that haven’t gone into production, we’ll sit down with talent and producers.” But, he cautions, “We’re also very opportunistic, we’re not simply going to go after a project on spec…It’s not as though we have to come out of here with a movie. But, if we feel like there’s something of value, we’re gonna get into it.”