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Cannes '01: A Mixed Report Card With an 'A' for Asian Market; Sony Picks Up 'Resident Evil'

17 May, 2001 By: Hive News

As Cannes draws to a close, buyers and sellers are turning in mixed report cards on the market, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The uncertainty created by the now-resolved writers strike threat, the strength of the U.S. dollar and the generally lackluster economic conditions being experienced in such key markets as Germany and Japan have all been factors in delivering decidedly mixed results for attendees.

But a flurry of activity during the last two days has meant buyers and sellers can be more confident taking their report cards home.

According to The Reporter, some of the more active companies are rooted again in Asian film, including Dutch/Hong Kong distributor Fortissimo Film Sales, which sold two of its Asian titles into the American market.

For many others in the market, buyers and sellers reported a relatively soft market.

"There's an overall pall over the market because of the strike," Richard Guardian, who heads American operations of Australia's Beyond Films, told The Reporter.

Echoing many others, Guardian pointed to the lack of any big-budget titles on offer, thanks to the holding pattern created at all levels by the threat of a strike coupled with economic difficulties in many major markets. "The strike has created a real malaise, especially when coupled with the strong U.S. dollar internationally."

While the dollar is helping sellers, many buyers report that they simply cannot afford to buy films that they could have last year and are holding back and even reportedly asking for renegotiated deals on past acquisitions.

Currency concerns for European dealmakers could be eased by switching to the euro, according to some interviewed by The Reporter.

RAI Cinema president Giancarlo Leone said the relatively stable euro could become a more favored currency for transactions. "The value of the dollar against the lira has grown tremendously in the past two months, making the euro a much more attractive currency for us (for intra-European transactions)," he told The Reporter. "This can change a lot of things."

"I think everyone agrees that it was quiet this year," said Thomas Friedl, head of marketing and distribution at Munich-based producer-distributor Constantin Film. "There weren't very many good films being offered for distribution, and none of the Competition pictures created much buzz."

It was a different story on the sales side, with German licensers reporting steady, though not spectacular, market activity.

"We are very pleased," said Thorsten Schaumann, head of sales at Germany's Bavaria Film International. "Things really took off in the second week. Asia and Eastern Europe were particularly strong."

The one constant and bright thread throughout the market has been the increasing buoyancy of the Asian market, with Asian suppliers reporting significantly ramped up interest from Western buyers flocking to check out whether the next Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon might be lurking in a Hong Kong or Korean slate.

"There will be an Asian movie boom in five years as talent and skills widen so that there will be no difference (between Asia and the West)," predicted Kang Woo-Suk, president and director of major Korean production company Cinema Service.

U.S. companies were cautious at Cannes this year, but the second week led to a flurry of buys toward the market's end. Warner Bros. bought Competition entry La Stanza del Figlio (The Son's Room), and Miramax Films bought Thailand's Un Certain Regard feature Tears of the Black Tiger.

Another noteworthy deal concluded during the market: Germany's Constantin sales arm sold sci-fi action flick Resident Evil to Sony Pictures for worldwide distribution.

Hong Kong/Amsterdam-based sales company Fortissimo continued an active market run, selling off distribution rights to Zhang Yang's Quitting to Sony Pictures Classics in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Fortissimo also has "partially" invested in an American English-language film, Party Monster, written and directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato with Seth Green attached to star.

Also, FFC has acquired world rights to Eye, a $2.5 million horror thriller from Applause Pictures.

SPC was said to also be in final negotiations to acquire auteur Eric Rohmer's L'Anglaise et Le Duc (The Englishwoman and the Duke) from Pathe International. The movie is a romantic drama set against the backdrop of the French revolution.

Warner Bros. acquired the much-anticipated Competition film Figlio from Italian director Nanni Moretti. Warner Bros. snagged rights from Wild Bunch in Spain, Latin America and Japan for the film, which was released in March in Italy.

Also of interest stateside, indie distribution banner USA Films snapped up U.S. distribution rights Wednesday to Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding.

Overseas Filmgroup will handle worldwide licensing and assist in financial packaging on the feature Kieslowski -- Inspirations. Overseas' sister company First Look Pictures will roll out the film theatrically in the United States, and the company also will handle home video.

Produced by Grazka Taylor, Inspirations is an homage to late Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieslowski and consists of 10 short films by various filmmakers that pay him tribute. Contributing helmers include, Agnieska Holland, Wim Wenders, Rodrigo Garcia, Wayne Wang, Charles Burnett, Joan Stein and Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Overseas said.

French independent Mercure Distribution reported a slew of deals on the Competition serial killer movie Roberto Succo, directed by Cedric Kahn. The film was picked up by Artificial Eye in the United Kingdom, Spain's Vertigo, Japan's Longride and Italy's Fandango. It also has been sold to South Korea, Belgium, Austria and French-speaking Canada, with negotiations under way for America and Germany.

Mercure has sold several territories on its sexually explicit Critics' Week entry Le Pornographe (The Pornographer) and has closed some early deals on the second Competition title it is selling, La Chambre des Officiers (The Officers' Room), directed by Francois Dupeyron.

Pathe International has sold the thriller Nid de Guepes (The Nest) to Nippon Herald in Japan and has closed deals in South Korea, Russia, Central America and Thailand on the movie.

Negotiations are under way with several major territories, including America, on Pathe's romantic drama Rue des Plaisirs (Love Street) from director Patrice Leconte and starring Laetitia Casta.

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)

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