Looks like an unwavering release strategy for Blue Is The Warmest Color has paid off for French distributor Wild Bunch. The Cannes Palme d’Or-winning love story went out yesterday in France and landed atop the Paris box office in its first 2 PM showings, outperforming both Disney’s Planes and the Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer Prisoners. Planes was No. 1 in the whole of the country for the day, early rankings show, followed by Blue and Prisoners. In Paris, however, the Blue curious were out in droves for the first showings, bringing the film 3,286 admissions on 26 screens versus 2,581 on 20 screens for Planes and 1,629 for Prisoners on 19 screens. The result gives Blue bragging rights as the top French debut of the year and puts it in the top 10 openers overall for 2013. (Full results for the day are still being tallied in France.) Wild Bunch notoriously stuck to its guns on maintaining an October 9th release date, even though that put the movie out of possible consideration as France’s entry for the Foreign Language Oscar race. Sundance Selects has set an October 25th limited release in the U.S. for the film, which will be rated NC-17 stateside.
Yesterday’s announcement that Gilles Bourdos’ period drama Renoir would be France’s entry for the Foreign-Language Oscar race was a bit of a head-scratcher. Once it became clear a few months ago that Cannes Palme d’Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Color (aka Adèle: Chapters 1&2) would not be eligible, other possible titles were floated including previous Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi’s The Past. But Renoir was not really on the radar — not the least because it had debuted in a Cannes sidebar in 2012. Academy Foreign Language rules stipulate that a film must be released domestically between October 1st and September 30th and Renoir was a fit because it went out in January this year in France. Blue, however, is not releasing until October 9th, meaning it misses the cut-off. Many have wondered why Wild Bunch, which is distributing Blue in France, would not change the October 9th date to qualify. Company co-founder Vincent Maraval tells me today, “There was never any question for us to modify in any way our release strategy to legitimize the stupidity of the Oscar rules. Should we risk our strategy for France for a Foreign Language Film Oscar which doesn’t add anything to a Palme d’Or?” He contends that the Foreign Language Oscar “no longer means anything for a film that was crowned in Cannes” and says the rules are “unique, specific and make no sense. At the same time, no one cares about this category. We’re aiming for (Blue) in all categories, the only ones that count.”
Of Renoir, which Wild Bunch sold internationally, Maraval says it’s “a perfect film for the Academy: classic, esthetic and cultural in the same vein as (1994 Foreign Language Oscar winner) Belle Epoque or (1991 winner) Mediterraneo. It got rave reviews from U.S. critics and it’s the highest-grossing French film in the U.S. this year with $2.2M. Objectively, it’s the most legitimate candidate.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: Multiple Deals For Nicolas Cage Drama ‘Joe’; Vodafone OKd For $10.2B Kabel Deutschland Buyout; More
WestEnd Films Seals Multiple Deals For Nicolas Cage Drama ‘Joe’
International sales company WestEnd Films has closed a raft of deals on David Gordon Green’s drama Joe, starring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. The film debuted in Venice, where Sheridan won the best newcomer prize. The Worldview Entertainment-produced and -financed film then appeared in Toronto, where deals were sealed with Japan (CCC), Australia (Madman), Benelux (Cinéart) and Scandinavia (Non Stop). Artificial Eye picked it up in the UK, and the film had previously sold to 15 territories include France (Wild Side), Germany (Koch Media), Latin America (Swen), China (Media Asia), Israel (United King), and Greece (Spentzos Films). CAA is repping the North America rights, with Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions and Magnolia Pictures being the front-runners as of Friday.
Vodafone Set To Acquire Germany’s Kabel Deutschland For $10.2B
Shareholders of Kabel Deutschland — Germany’s largest cable company — voted Friday to accept Vodafone’s buyout offer of €87 ($115.70) a share, which includes a €2.50 dividend payment. Vodafone, Germany’s top mobile network with 32 million subscribers, said the required 75% minimum of Kabel investors had been met. The deal, which gives Vodafone 7.6 million cable subs, continues its strategy of offsetting declining revenue by selling mobile phone subscriptions alongside TV, landline and broadband services. Reuters reported Friday that three hedge funds that tendered shares enabling Vodafone’s successful Kabel bid plan to sue for a better price for their outstanding holdings.
Oscar-winning Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki once said he thought he’d stop making features after 1997′s Princess Mononoke. Instead, he went on to such films as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo. Today in Venice, Koju Hoshino, …
EXCLUSIVE: When controversial French sensation Blue Is The Warmest Color won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, it was expected to be a major player in the upcoming Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film. Now it’s ineligible to compete and not even impassioned pleas from Sundance Selects, its American distributor, have done the trick. This unexpected development as first reported on Deadline is due to its October 9th French opening. Local distributor Wild Bunch will not change the date in order to comply with an arcane Academy rule that says each film must have opened in the country of origin by the end of September. Now Sundance Selects/IFC Films President Jonathan Sehring who picked up the U.S. rights to Blue in Cannes is very disappointed that this decision appears irreversible. “I talked to them about it and said it was a missed opportunity if you don’t qualify it. So they actually were going to do a qualification run in the town where it was shot in Northern France,” Sehring tells me. “But ultimately the French governing body said no. It had to be a wide release in order for it to qualify and so [Wild Bunch] called and said ‘We don’t want to move off our date. We have a great date.’ It’s unfortunate.”
Although it won’t help Blue this year, Sehring hopes the Academy will deep-six the September 30th eligibility date and change it in the future to be more reflective of the realities of the international film industry. “It’s a global business right now and [it's not good] to hold the Foreign Language titles to a September 30th date. This present Academy administration has been really great about re-visiting things that don’t really make sense and I’m just hoping that will happen.” However as a distributor he does fully understand the Wild Bunch decision and its box office potential in France. “What could be better than that for them? If the French want to choose it as next year’s title I can always hope there, but unfortunately it didn’t work out in terms of qualification,” he said.
Two international sales and finance powerhouses are getting on the China bandwagon. IM Global has enlisted former Huayi Brothers exec Leslie Chen to head up its new Beijing operation. The offices will be open at the end of the month where IM Global’s pan-Asian distribution label Apsara will be based. Chen will manage much of the company’s international sales activity in the region as well as overseeing the release of IM Global’s films in mainland China.
Meanwhile, France’s Wild Bunch is partnering with Beijing-based production and distribution group Taihe Pictures to create a sales and distribution outfit Taihe Wild Bunch. The company will focus on acquiring international distribution rights for Chinese movies with crossover potential and will exploit Wild Bunch’s catalog, including remake rights, in China. Wild Bunch has deep ties to China having worked with such filmmakers as Lou Ye, Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou over the past several years.
Cannes Briefs: Ed Westwick Joins ‘Bone In The Throat’; Jessica Chastain Hosting ‘Cleopatra’ Event; 108 Media’s ‘Jug Face’; Wild Bunch Ups Carole Baraton; More
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Ed Westwick Has A ‘Bone In The Throat’
EXCLUSIVE: Ed Westwick will play the lead in the film adaptation of Anthony Bourdain’s foodie noir thriller novel Bone In The Throat. Burn Gorman (The Dark Knight Rises, Revenge) and Liam Cunningham (Game Of Thrones) have also joined the cast of the film to be helmed by commercials director Graham Henman in his feature debut. He co-wrote the screenplay with Mark Townend. Lenny Beckerman and Peter Heslop are producing the story of a sous-chef at the hottest restaurant in London’s East End who becomes embroiled in his uncle’s underground mob activity when he witnesses him commit a murder. Executive producer Maggie Monteith of Dignity Film Finance is backing the picture set to shoot in London in the fall. Westwick is repped by Michael Hallett at Emptage Hallet. Cunningham and Gorman are repped by Management 360 and the UK’s Independent Talent.
Fox, Bulgari Roll Out Red Carpet For Cannes ‘Cleopatra’
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is partnering with jeweler Bulgari to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s legendary Cleopatra. A restored 243-minute version will have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, hosted by Jessica Chastain and attended by members of the families of stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The screening will be followed by a reception featuring pieces on display from Taylor’s personal jewelry collection. The exhibition also will include original costumes from the film which are on loan from Cinecittà. Following the Cannes premiere, Twentieth Century Fox will release Cleopatra in limited theatrical engagements in more than 200 theaters around the world. The 50th anniversary Blu-ray Cleopatra debuts May 28.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval, $1.6B In UK Digital Entertainment Sales, Alki David And Quickflix & More
Wild Bunch Exec Protests High Costs Of French Filmmaking
An editorial written by Wild Bunch co-founder and sales chief Vincent Maraval has whipped up a mini-storm within the French film industry. The exec, who’s had a hand in such films as The Artist, The Wrestler, Pan’s Labyrinth, Fahrenheit 9/11, City Of God and March Of The Penguins, blasted the current state of French cinema, calling 2012 a “disaster”. France enjoys possibly the world’s most generous subsidy system which relies in part on investment by local TV networks, but Maraval says “even the biggest commercial successes lose money” with budgets inflated by above the line costs. Calling France “the world record holder for the average cost of production” after the U.S., Maraval says “French actors are rich from public funds and from a system that protects the cultural exception.” Maraval cites such talent as Vincent Cassel, Jean Reno, Marion Cotillard, Guillaume Canet and Audrey Tautou and asks why they would “be paid from €500,000 to €2M ($655K to $2.62M) for a French film limited to the French market but when they shoot an American film, whose market is worldwide, they’re happy with €50,000 to €200,000 ($65.5K to $262K)?
EXCLUSIVE… UPDATE: Memphis, Paul Greengrass‘ film about the final days of Dr. Martin Luther King, is coming back around. Now, I hear that steps are underway to make Memphis Greengrass’ next directorial outing. I’ve heard that Veritas is in talks to finance with Wild Bunch. You might recall the picture was shelved after Universal Pictures dropped out, and Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin shelved it because it became too difficult to set up new financing and shoot the film so that it could be released during the MLK weekend holiday. Greengrass and Rudin moved on to make Captain Phillips, the Sony drama about the Somali pirate heist that stars Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips.
The script depicts Dr. King’s final days as he struggled to organize a protest march on behalf of striking black municipal sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was slain. That storyline is juxtaposed with an intense manhunt for King’s assassin James Earl Ray, involving some of the federal authorities who, at Hoover’s direction, had dogged King’s every step with wiretaps and whispering campaigns before the civil rights leader’s death.
Wild Bunch hits Cannes next week with a colossal 14 films in official selection and one each in Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight. Co-founder and sales chief Vincent Maraval tells me that’s a record for the company that last year unveiled The Artist at the festival.
There are also 4 new films debuting on the sales slate including Brian De Palma’s Passion starring Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace and Paul Anderson. The Saïd Ben Saïd-produced film is De Palma’s own spin on Alain Corneau’s 2010 thriller Crime D’Amour about a power struggle between a ruthless executive and her protégé. Wild Bunch is also handling Cube and Splice director Vincenzo Natali’s Haunter with Abigail Breslin. The supernatural thriller/ghost story focuses on a young girl and her family who have been trapped in their house since they died there in 1986. Steve Hoban is producing the currently shooting film from Copperheart Entertainment.
After 2010’s Film Socialisme, Jean-Luc Godard is back with Wild Bunch and Goodbye To Language 3D. Godard’s films are typically tough to describe, but Maraval tells me this one involves a couple and a dog who helps them communicate when they’re no longer able. Rounding out the new titles is Marina de Van’s English-language horror tale Dark Touch from Agat Films, Ex-Nihilo and Element Pictures. This one focuses on a young girl whose family is murdered by their house. When she tries to convince the police of the house’s rage, no one believes her.
EXCLUSIVE: Wild Bunch is reteaming with Cristian Mungiu for the 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days helmer’s first feature effort since his 2007 Palme d’Or winning drama. Along with repping sales on the new film, Wild Bunch is producing with France’s Why Not and Mungiu. Set in an Orthodox convent in Romania, the story centers on a young woman’s descent into madness, her subsequent exorcism and the police investigation it sparks. Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval tells me the genre film has elements of 4 Months, but with a much more intense twist. Wild Bunch will commence pre-sales in Berlin and is eyeing a Cannes delivery date. Also on Wild Bunch’s Berlin sales slate are a series of titles likely to see play in the official selections at Cannes including West Beyrouth director Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack, a film that was previously in development at Focus. Based on the best-selling book by Yasmina Khadra, the film is about a Palestinian doctor who discovers uncomfortable truths about his wife following a suicide bombing attack. Wild Bunch has also boarded Broken, stage director Rufus Norris’ feature debut starring Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Rory Kinnear and Bill Milner. Adapted from Daniel Clay’s novel, story follows the turmoil a young girl faces after witnessing a violent attack. Maraval says the film could be a contender
EXCLUSIVE: Twisted Pictures, the company behind the Saw series and other genre films, has made an output and distribution deal with Wild Bunch. The Paris-based distribution and sales company will acquire and distribute the worldwide rights in all media for Twisted Pictures, the genre label of Mark Burg’s Evolution Entertainment. The deal will run for three years, and Twisted Pictures plans to generate up to two films each year, with an emphasis on low-budget genre fare featuring new filmmakers. It’s a major step forward for Burg since he bought out co-founder Oren Koules’ 50% stake in Evolution last June and named Mike Menchel to run the production/management company as president. Evolution, longtime manager of Charlie Sheen, was a producer of Two And A Half Men and will be a producer on Sheen’s upcoming FX series Anger Management.
EXCLUSIVE: Wild Bunch has added eight French projects to its lineup ahead of the Rendez-Vous With French Cinema in Paris next week. They include works from the talent behind such films as Of Gods And Men, A Prophet and Tell No One, and I’ve got a preview of them below.
The Rendez-Vous brings out some 450 international buyers to sample the wares of local sales companies — and soak up a lot of champagne. Sponsored by France’s film export body Unifrance, it’s a must-attend on the calendar for indie distributors who spend four days at a market and screenings in Paris’ Opéra Garnier district. Although not a lot of business is transacted during the event per se, it remains a key opportunity for French sales companies to offer a glimpse at locally produced films that will circulate throughout the year. Wild Bunch typically uses the Rendez-Vous as a platform for its French pics. Last year, Vincent Maraval and his team started talking about eventual Cannes Jury Prize winner Poliss, which Sundance Selects later picked up. In 2010, the company emphasized Of Gods And Men, which ultimately won the Cannes Grand Prize and the Best Picture César and was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics. This year, along with talking up the new French projects, Wild Bunch will screen The Players for the first time. The star-studded series of vignettes about infidelity is from a group of directors that includes The Artist’s Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin (starring here in his first role since The Artist). It sold well during AFM while the new titles are also ones to watch given the company’s track record with some of the biggest exports of recent years.
Among those new titles are Tell No One producer Alain Attal’s 14 million euros Populaire, an already buzzy Mad Men-era typing competition romcom starring Romain Duris, Deborah François and Artist breakout Bérénice Bejo. Another romantic comedy on the slate, director Valérie Donzelli’s Hand In Hand, sees a mirror maker with a taste for hip-hop and an opera dance director befallen by a strange phenomenon that leaves them forced to mimic each other’s movements. Wild Bunch recently handled Donzelli’s Declaration Of War, which is this year’s Oscar entry from France. The company is also repping Fidélité Films’ Renoir, about the relationship between artist Auguste Renoir, his filmmaker son Jean and the muse they once shared. Michel Bouquet stars. Also on the slate, Of Gods And Men co-screenwriter Etienne Comar and Vendome Pictures’ Philippe Rousselet are producing Haute Cuisine, based on the true story of French president François Mitterrand and his personal cook.
EXCLUSIVE: We Own The Night writer/director James Gray is fast mobilizing his next film. It’s called Low Life, and it will star Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix, with Jeremy Renner in discussions to play the third lead. The project is being packaged by CAA. Several financiers are in the mix, but I hear that Wild Bunch will likely get it. Discussions are also taking place with domestic distributors, and deal is expected to be sealed shortly. The Hurt Locker‘s Greg Shapiro is producing.
I’m told that Cotillard will play a woman attempting to immigrate from Poland. Her American dream turns into a nightmare. While sailing to Ellis Island and a new start, her sister grows deathly ill and she is forced to trade sexual favors for medicine and food to keep her sister alive. Once they land, she is warned to keep quiet about what happened. Though she does, she walks away with immigration papers that deem her a woman with bad morals. With no place to go, she falls prey to a charming sleazebag (Phoenix), who persuades her to turn tricks in New York. Renner is close to signing on to play the sleazebag’s cousin, a magician who sweeps the young woman off her feet and is her best chance to escape the nightmarish life she has fallen into. This will be Gray’s fourth film with Phoenix, who previously starred in The Yards, We Own The Night and most recently Two Lovers.