Cannes Gears Up for Buoyant Market

Tom Hanks, Jodie Comer, Olivia Colman, David Cronenberg and Richard Linklater head projects at a Cannes 2022 pre-sales market that looks like the most buoyant in recent years, while also ushering in what is being hailed as a new era in global rights licensing.

“We’re very optimistic, expecting a pretty busy market with a lot of titles, the first real market after the pandemic,” said Constantin Film’s Martin Moszkowicz.

“Several distributors have told me that this Cannes will be the biggest market for projects in several years — in volume and quality,” said Cecile Gaget at Anton, which is selling Jodie Comer-led apocalyptic thriller “The End We Start From.”

Multiple larger packages hit the market late last week. “People are conscious there could still be quite a lot to come in,” said Anne Cherel at Studiocanal, which over the weekend unveiled one hot project, comedy “Wicked Little Letters,” re-teaming Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley.

Of really big packages, Lionsgate is asking prices from distributors on “Hunger Games” prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” said to carry a $200 million budget; Lionsgate is also selling a “Dirty Dancing” sequel.

Sony Pictures has just bought U.S. rights to Miramax-sold “Here,” re-teaming “Forrest Gump’s” Robert Zemeckis, Eric Roth and Hanks.

AGC Studios will introduce Richard Linklater action comedy “Hitman,” with Glenn Powell and Adria Arjona, from a “very commercial script,” said AGC’s Stuart Ford, plus true crime horror tale “The Dating Game,” with Anna Kendrick.

Studiocanal bows Joe Keery and Liam Neeson starrer “Cold Storage,” a humor-laced action sci-fi horror movie, said Studiocanal’s Chloé Marquet.

Guy Pearce toplines Mister Smith’s “The Convert,” described as an epic action thriller set in the 1830s Māori wars, “a kind of Māori ‘Last of the Mohicans,’” says Mister Smith’s David Garrett.

David Cronenberg directs Vincent Cassel in FilmNation thriller “The Shrouds.” Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche star in “The Return,” from Hanway Films.

Meanwhile, Russell Crowe teams with Liam Hemsworth on Highland Film Group’s action thriller “Land of Bad.” Beckinsale stars in the spy nail-biter “Canary Black,” from Anton.

Keaton toplines and directs noir-ish suspense tale “Knox Goes Away; Harrelson leads fact-based rescue white-knuckler “Deep Breath,” and Bill Skarsgård heads “The Crow” reboot, all three titles from FilmNation.

Yet Cannes 2022 looks less a return to 2019 than a full-on reset, accelerated by streaming, political change, the pandemic and war in Ukraine.

“The landscape for independently financing those kind of international friendly, mid-to-higher budget action films is currently challenging,” said Ford, citing bankable talent unavailability, ongoing additional COVID costs and, most importantly, reduced pre-sale potential in a number of territories as well as the current lack of distribution deals or equity investment from Russia and China in particular.

“Many of the leading producer-financiers are recognizing that the sweet spot at this particular Cannes market may be more films in the $20 million-$30 million budget range,” he added.

International business has also “recently moved into a new phase in global rights licensing,” Ford noted.

“Distributors have had to adapt over the past two years and have shown a lot of flexibility. We have seen new models emerging that will remain in the future. Everyone has learned how to work together instead of against each other,” observed Studiocanal’s Chloé Marquet.

The market’s increasingly mixing it up, with sales agents looking to clinch theatrical in larger regions in Europe, or to streamers or TV, even by region or territory-by-territory, Moszkowicz noted.

“Nowadays, anything’s possible. Any configuration,” said Garrett. “We have to bring films to market that in our minds appeal both to theatrical buyers and platforms, though streamers tend to be looking more for genre-driven material: Action thriller, comedy, romantic comedy, sci fi,” he added.

During the pandemic, major international distributors have significantly adapted their releasing strategies and buying approach so that they’re a bit less dependent on U.S. or even local theatrical performance, Ford observed. This “makes for more of a level field alongside the seven-to-eight hungry global streaming buyers. There is definitely more of an equilibrium in the marketplace.”

A new era still begs multiple questions. One is streamers’ acquisition strategies. “We could have some surprises at Cannes,” said Gaget. New players like MGM-Amazon and Warner-HBO are in a good position to acquire material while Netflix and Amazon may be more passive.

Backed by a new and powerful ancillary in streaming, some distributors are bullish on acquisitions. Last year, IFC Films came to Cannes with a brace of competition movies already on its lineup, such as “Benedetta,” “Paris, 13th District” and “Bergman Island.” This year, said IFC’s Arianna Bocco, the company is planning its 2023 actively and could be buying “one or two great films.”

IFC Films is having a “good opportunistic moment,” she added. “Now we’re walking into Cannes with more leverage and a mindset that we are a powerhouse and not just an indie.”

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