Cannes buyers had plenty of screenings to choose from today but the hottest movie on the Croisette right now is Philomena — or at least the seven minutes that were shown to buyers this morning. This is the Stephen Frears-directed movie that stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and is the true story of an Irish woman who searches for the illegitimate son she gave up for adoption in the U.S. I am hearing that The Weinstein Company is in exclusive negotiations for the pic for U.S., Canada and Spain distribution rights, this after Focus Features stepped out of the bidding. The wild part: the bidding is based on a morning screening of partial footage to domestic buyers, and the action is currently at $6.5 million for a film said to cost around $18 million. That is a shockingly high number for a teaser reel, but everyone I spoke to who saw it was knocked out. The pic is being sold directly by Pathe’s Muriel Sauzay, and a deal could make this evening even as everybody heads off to movies and dinner parties.
CANNES: Below I’ve compiled this year’s list of what Cannes films are most often being mentioned by potential buyers. But already there’s been a bit of action in the marketplace, with Warner Bros acquiring domestic on the Ryan Gosling-directed How To Catch A Monster. Sellers feel a good appetite for deal-making is in the air. “This has been the busiest month we’ve had going into a Cannes Film Festival. The frenetic activity has never been this intense,” said Roeg Sutherland, who runs CAA’s independent film operation with Micah Green. “It’s not that a lot of new companies are jumping in like they did last year. But we’re seeing those companies coming back here with good slates, which is the healthiest thing for everybody.” I can tell you that sellers this year are cautiously optimistic this Cannes market will be closer to 2011′s when sales were made on the basis of sizzle reels. (Harvey Weinstein made a big bet on The Iron Lady after watching seven minutes of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, and John Hillcoat’s Lawless and Rian Johnson’s Looper sold on the basis of preview reels as well.) Not even rain in the forecast for the next couple of days can depress the upbreat attitudes here. After all, at last Cannes, the sellers market on the Croisette belonged to the umbrella salesman getting 40 Euros a pop in a nonstop torrential downpour that put a figurative damper on the entire market. We all known you cannot measure the success of Cannes the way you can Toronto and Sundance. If buyers don’t buy, sellers are in trouble. Here, a chance conversation with a high net worth individual can make the whole Cannes experience worthwhile. This is a festival of intangibles, and players have to make the time to hustle at the Hotel Du Cap where the billionaire investors roam and the movie stars are stashed until they have to come to the Croisette for premieres. That’s as glitzy as it gets here, but sellers and buyers tell me they do most of their business over a drink at the Carlton and Majestic Hotels, and to a lesser degree the Martinez. Agents especially have “how I won the war” Cannes stories of unexpected encounters that turned into game-changing deals.
“Beyond the competition and the exposure that is so good for the careers of your clients, it is an important place to create a moment that leads to films getting financed,” said UTA’s Rich Klubeck. “Two years ago, we met with the guys at Studio Canal who’d said they missed being in business with Joel and Ethan Coen. We had another meeting in New York and they wrote the check for Inside Llewyn Davis, which premieres here. It could not have been a better situation. They have proven to be perfect partners.” That deal allowed the Coens and producer Scott Rudin to shoot the 1960s folk movie without pressure to find early domestic distribution. The picture went to CBS Films after the filmmakers showed the finished product to a crowd of buyers. “We got to take our time, hear the marketing plans offered by each distributor, and pick the perfect situation,” Klubeck told me. “This is a good place where a lot of stuff happens.”
Cannes Briefs: Red Sea Media Picks Up 2; UMedia & ‘Amazing Mr Jones’; Ealing Metro Re-Brands; Lionsgate UK’s Buying Spree; Weinstein Co. Presents Short Film Series
Red Sea Media Acquires 2 Titles For Marché du Film
Red Sea Media has acquired worldwide rights, excluding North America, for two new titles: horror-thriller Sacrilege and comedic horror pic Hell Baby. Red Sea will introduce both at the upcoming Marché du Film. Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, Sacrilege is produced by Rick Dugdale of Enderby Entertainment through Enderby’s horror division Tony-Seven Films, Sean E. DeMott through Execution Style Entertainment and Chris M. Bonifay through Limb from Limb Pictures. Sacrilege is about a family who takes back their son 3 years after he is kidnapped & brainwashed by a devil worshipping cult. Now, he would like nothing more than to watch them get murdered. With the cult surrounding their cabin, the family must fight for their lives while trying to undo the damage. No cast has yet been announced. Hell Baby tells the story of an expectant couple who move into a haunted fixer-upper in New Orleans — a house with a demonic curse. Things spiral out of control and only the Vatican’s elite exorcism team can save them — or can they? Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Riki Lindhome, Rob Huebel, Michael Ian Black, Paul Scheer, Keegan Michael Key, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon star. Darko Entertainment’s Hell Baby was written and directed by Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon and produced by Jeff Culotta, Ted Hamm, Sean McKittrick and Peter Principato.
EXCLUSIVE: Brad Furman will finally get behind the camera on a feature film about Colombian drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar. The Lincoln Lawyer director has long sought a way into a biopic of Escobar and now has Inside Llewyn Davis star Oscar Isaac aboard for the lead role, which is based on the Black List script by Matt Aldrich. Isaac will be in a lot of conversations before and after that Coen brothers pic comes out December 6. Relativity Media is the distributor and will sell the project in Cannes. Raging Bull Entertainment’s Joseph Khouri and Joe Isgro will produce with Scott Pictures’ Scott Steindorff, Film 360′s Scott Lambert, Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh and Tucker Tooley. Scott Lastaiti and Dylan Russell are exec producing. Filming begins in September in Colombia. Steindorff is producing and funding Jane Got Gun, the pic that finally came together with a final piece of casting in Ewan McGregor, who stars with Natalie Portman, Noah Emmerich and Joel Edgerton. The pic is near the end of production under helmer Gavin O’Connor.
Isaac is repped by UTA and Inspire Entertainment, Furman by CAA and Aldrich by CAA and Jewerl Ross.
The cheery first trailer for The Weinstein Company‘s Oscar-season dark family comedy August: Osage County, based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play, has dropped. The monster cast includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper and Dermot Mulroney among others. John Wells directed and Letts wrote the adaptation. George Clooney and Grant Heslov produced it with Jean Doumanian and Steve Traxler, and it’s set for a November 8 premiere. Check it out:
Cannes Briefs: Epic’s ‘Thale’ Sequel; Osiris’ ‘The Kill Hole’; Darclight’s ‘Contracted’; Simon Cowell’s ‘Pudsey’; Ridley Scott’s ‘Get Santa’; More
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Epic Sets English-Language ‘Thale’ Sequel
Epic Pictures is partnering with Norway’s Yesbox Productions to finance and produce an English-language sequel to Norwegian thriller Thale. The sequel will be written and directed by Thale‘s Aleksander Nordaas. Patrick Ewald and Shaked Berenson are producing alongside Bendik Heggen Strønstad of Yesbox. Thale appeared in Toronto and SXSW last year and told the story of two crime-scene cleaners who discover a tailed female creature in a concealed cellar who has been held captive for decades. Thale was based on a mythical character in Nordic folklore called the “huldra,” a beautiful creature with female attributes that is said to seduce men by humming a beautiful song, but the men never return to their villages. Epic’s Patrick Ewald says the budget will be upped for the sequel “so that Aleksander and Bendik’s vision can be accomplished on a grand scale.”
EXCLUSIVE: Summit Entertainment is certainly bullish on its adaptation of the Veronica Roth bestselling series Divergent. It not only has assigned the film the March 21, 2014 slot that got The Hunger Games off to a flying start, but it has officially gotten underway on the sequel. Summit has just set Brian Duffield to script the sequel, Insurgent, which Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher will produce the film via their Red Wagon Entertainment banner along with Pouya Shahbazian. The second installment continues the journey of Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) as war now looms. Sides will be chosen, secrets will emerge, and Tris will risk everything as she struggles to harness her incredible power. Theo James and Kate Winslet also star, and the first film was scripted by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, with Neil Burger directing. The book has been atop or near it on The New York Times Bestseller list since Katherine Tegen Books/ HarperCollins published it in 2011. The first two books have sold a combined three million copies. The hope of Summit brass is this continues the young adult fantasy fare momentum that was captured by The Hunger Games series. Duffield, who is repped by Gersh and Circle of Confusion, scripted Jane Got A Gun, the Western that is currently in production with Gavin O’Connor directing and Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Noah Emmerich and Ewan McGregor starring.
EXCLUSIVE: The resilient indie Western Jane Got A Gun finally has its bad guy. Ewan McGregor is negotiating to play the pivotal role of the leader of an outlaw gang in the film that Gavin O’Connor is now directing. Natalie Portman plays the wife of an outlaw (Noah Emmerich) who leaves that gang after he gets shot up, and returns home. Knowing his former outlaw mates will come to finish him off and destroy her farm, Jane is forced to rekindle a relationship with a past love (Joel Edgerton), a capable gunman who can help her. This is the role that Jude Law originally was going to play, but he exited when original director Lynne Ramsay abruptly left the night before production began. After O’Connor came on to replace Ramsay behind the camera, they got Bradley Cooper to play the part, but his schedule is so impossibly busy — particularly after shooting got postponed on the David O Russell-directed American Hustle because of the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent city lockdown — that Cooper had to drop out. This was OK because the villain wasn’t scheduled to shoot until later into the production.
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Mud kicked up the dirt in the specialty realm with a hefty opening and some decent audiences to boot. The Roadside Attractions release directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon bowed with $2.185 million in a release strategy Roadside says is the new path for certain indie/specialties featuring named talent. The Weinstein Company launched Kon-Tiki in one theater each in NYC and LA, taking the weekend’s highest per screen average with $11,167 among limited releases. Another big specialty release, Arthur Newman, however, tanked with a $435 average in 248 theaters. The weekend happened to coincide with the most beautiful weather in New York City in what seems like years. It was a crowded space with many new specialty releases and the lure of staying outside. But roll out they did. Sony Classics’ At Any Price had a slight opening in four theaters, IFC Films fared better with Venice opener The Reluctant Fundamentalist in three theaters, and Paladin/108 Media’s Salman Rushdie-written Midnight’s Children opened with $12,200 in two theaters. Meanwhile one film, which almost didn’t have formal distribution at all — An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty — scored a solid opening with no stars.
Roadside Attractions has verbally called out the traditional NY/LA two-to-four (or so) platform release strategy that has been the norm for many-a-specialty release. Believing it can capitalize on a blitz of media, when the film has at least one star, and a flurry of social media, the distributor has forgone the traditional limited release roll out and opened — at least in indie world numbers — fairly widely. Mud had a $6,022 average. Not gargantuan, but it debuted in 363 theaters. McConaughey and Witherspoon star in the pic, which factored into Roadside’s strategy. For comparison’s sake, Roadside’s Emperor with Tommy Lee Jones opened March 8th in 260 theaters with just over $1 million. That was nearly one-third of its come, which has topped out at a bit under $3.3 million to date. “The world moves fast. Emperor frankly didn’t have amazing reviews but had a million dollar opening,” said Roadside chief Howard Cohen. “I think the old model has come outdated especially when the PR is front loaded.” Cohen noted that their strategy with a release like Mud works when the film includes named talent. The traditional mode is still a good one theatrically when there isn’t”.
Too Early To Talk 2014 Oscars? Harvey Weinstein Buying ‘Grace Of Monaco’ With Nicole Kidman As Grace Kelly
EXCLUSIVE: With two Best Picture candidates in the hunt, Harvey Weinstein has begun putting together the Oscar season slate for next year. I’m told that The Weinstein Company is wrapping up a deal to acquire domestic rights to Grace Of Monaco, the Olivier Dahan-directed drama that stars Nicole Kidman as actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly, Tim Roth as Monaco’s Prince Rainier III. I’m hearing that TWC has made a big bet, paying a $5 million minimum guarantee and a P&A commitment around $10 million for a minimum 800 screen run. I was unable to get comment from TWC or CAA, which shopped the domestic rights and established the film as a hot buzz title by showing a sizzle reel footage at Berlin. TWC’s Weinstein and David Glasser made the deal Friday night here in Hollywood with CAA on behalf of Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, who produced the film with Uday Chopra and Arash Amel. Amel wrote the script. The film will be released in December, smack in the middle of next awards season, a release pattern that will be similar to the one TWC used for The Iron Lady. Inferno and Silver Reel were also in the deal. A $2 million deal for Canada is also in the offing.
Pablo Berger’s black and white and silent rendering of Snow White won the top Goya in Spain on Sunday night. The Spanish Oscars gave Blancanieves the Best Film prize along with Best Actress for Maribel Verdú and Best Original Screenplay for Berger. It won seven other prizes for a total of 10 out of its leading 18 nominations. The Impossible‘s Juan Antonio Bayona was named Best Director. The tsunami drama that stars Ewan McGregor and Oscar nominated Naomi Watts was also a winner in four other categories including Editing and Special Effects. It had 14 nominations going in. Click over for a full list of winners.
Casting Couch: Paul Ben-Victor Joins ‘Vegas’ & ‘Grudge Match’; ‘Magic City’s’ Dominik Garcia-Lorido Added To ‘Heat’; Tom Budge On ‘Son Of A Gun’
The Wire’s Paul Ben-Victor has a busy few months ahead of him. The seasoned actor, who once played the Three Stooges’ Moe in a 2000 TV movie about the trio and also played a vindictive studio chief in HBO’s Entourage, has signed on for a four episode stint on CBS’s freshman series Vegas. Ben-Victor will once again play an arrogant Hollywood mogul. His character’s name this time is Barry Silver in the 1960s-set drama with Dennis Quaid and Michael Chikilis. Ben-Victor will also be back on the big screen with Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone in Grudge Match. In the film about two old boxers lured back into the ring for one last bout, Ben-Victor will play the role of Lou Camare, a well connected fight promoter. Ben-Victor is repped by APA and Leverage.
Warner Bros has released the latest trailer for Jack The Giant Slayer. The Bryan Singer-directed pic is based on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale and stars Nicholas Hoult as Jack. The newest trailer focuses a bit less on the comedic elements and more on the action sequences. Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Warwick Davis, Bill Nighy, Ian McShane, Eleanor Tomlinson and Eddie Marsan also star. Writers are Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney. Jack The Giant Slayer opens March 1st:
EXCLUSIVE: Acclaimed Danish director Ole Bornedal has signed with ICM Partners. Bornedal has directed several award-winning European films including Just Another Love Story, which was nominated for the Sundance 2008 Grand Jury Prize, and his acclaimed feature debut Nightwatch, which he remade for Miramax Films starring Ewan McGregor and Josh Brolin. He also produced the Guillermo del Toro-directed Mimic for Dimension.
Most recently, Bornedal directed last summer’s box office hit The Possession, scripted by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White for Lionsgate, and produced by Sam Raimi. Bornedal moves from WME. He is managed by Thruline Entertainment and attorney Andrew Hurwitz.
Busy up-and-comer Alicia Vikander is becoming quite the globetrotter. The Swedish actress who rose to prominence with the Oscar-nominated Danish film A Royal Affair, then shot Anna Karenina in England, The Seventh Son in the U.S. and has a role in The Fifth Estate which just kicked off in Germany, will head to Oz to star with Ewan McGregor in crime thriller Son Of A Gun later this month. Also boarding the Australian production are Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent) and Jacek Koman (The Great Gatsby, Top Of The Lake). Julius Avery, an award-winner for his short Jerrycan, is directing the story of the complex relationship between McGregor’s public enemy number one character and his young protégé, played by Thwaites. Altitude Film Sales is handling international rights and UTA Independent Film Group represents the producers for North American rights.
Although Blancanieves missed making the shortlist for the foreign language Oscar, the entry from Spain leads nominations for the Goyas, the country’s equivalent to the Academy Awards. Pablo Berger’s black-and-white and silent re-telling of Snow White has 18 nods in total including picture, director, original screenplay and editing. It also has six actors up for prizes including leads Maribel Verdú and Daniel Giménez Cacho. Juan Antonio Bayona’s critical and box office success The Impossible scored 14 nominations including picture, director, actress for Naomi Watts and supporting actor for Ewan McGregor. Their young co-star Tom Holland also got a nod for best newcomer. The other most heavily-nominated films are Unit 7 from director Alberto Rodríguez with 16 nods and Fernando Trueba’s The Artist And The Model with 13. The awards ceremony will be held February 17 in Madrid. Here’s a full list of nominees (in Spanish).
Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
The first weekend of 2013 has barely any new specialty releases. One exception is Magnolia Pictures’ action-thriller A Dark Truth, directed by Damian Lee and starring Andy Garcia, Kim Coates and Deborah Kara Unger, will have a limited opening in Miami. Post-holiday attention on limited releases will focus on holdovers and expansions, including Lionsgate-Summit’s The Impossible, Focus Features’ Promised Land and Hyde Park On Hudson, and The Weinstein Company’s Silver Linings Playbook, and others.
The Naomi Watts-Ewan McGregor starrer The Impossible had a relatively meager start, averaging $8,250 in 15 locations two weekends ago, but it managed a rare feat last weekend increasing its average to $12,300 in the same 15 theaters. The film about a family caught in the South Asian tsumami has grossed an additional $145,721 in the same cinemas Monday through Wednesday ahead of its hefty expansion into 572 locations beginning Friday.
Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
Two Cannes titles finally make it to theaters this holiday weekend in the specialty arena. Palme d’Or winner Amour has picked up critical accolades although its tough subject matter may prove a challenge for audiences. IFC Films’ On The Road has some star wattage from Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and Garrett Hedlund in the screen version of the 20th century American classic. Also taking on some tough subject matter is Toronto’s The Impossible starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor based on a true story of survival during the 2004 tsunami. And Not Fade Away will roll out under the Paramount Vantage label after an extensive run at festivals and word-of-mouth screenings.
On The Road
Director: Walter Salles
Writers: Jose Rivera (screenplay), Jack Kerouac (novel)
Cast: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Sturridge, Amy Adams
Distributor: IFC Films
This one has been a long time coming. Francis Ford Coppola first picked up rights to the On The Road novel in 1979 and served as executive producer on the film after asking Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles to take on the project. Salles spent a good deal of time researching the period known popularly as the Beat Generation and even filmed a documentary about On The Road before undertaking the feature. Kirsten Dunst was the first to come on board a number of years ago and Kristen Stewart actually first joined before undertaking her first Twilight Saga installment. Into The Wild director Sean Penn suggested her. The feature screened this year at the Cannes Film Festival, but IFC Films picked up the title prior to its debut there.
“We’ve never seen anything like this. We’re exhausted. We are out every night it seems and the invitations keep coming,” one Oscar-winning Academy member told me recently. He was referring to the glut of invites to parties, lunches, screenings with Q&As and everything else for which Oscar season campaigning has come to be known. He pointedly added that none of it has ever influenced his vote but he is not turning down the elaborate food spreads and the chance to mingle with contenders. “Just don’t tell anyone who invites me to these things, but it doesn’t really have much impact on the way I fill out my ballot,” he added with a smile.
That won’t stop Oscar strategists from trying and the campaign activity this season seems like it pushed into high gear much earlier than normal and hasn’t let up, even as the Christmas break quickly approaches and the town starts to shut down. Don’t tell that to the relentless Weinstein Company who will still have some of their contenders out on the stump even over this holiday weekend. Quentin Tarantino who, despite seeing his Los Angeles premiere for Django Unchained cancelled Tuesday night out of sensitivity to the Newtown tragedy, was out doing a Q&A and reception for a packed screening at the Academy last night and will be doing the same thing for BAFTA-LA Friday night.