Cannes Has Plenty of Titles for Sale, But Fewer of the Ones That Buyers Want

IndieWire | 5/14/2019 | Staff
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The Cannes Film Festival competition began today with the premiere of Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die,” but top North American distributors can’t afford to be distracted. They serve a market in which only the most carefully calibrated selections will thrive — and those who hesitate will almost certainly lose to the streaming buyers. With some of the best stuff already bought, theatrical distributors are forced to to look toward films that have yet to be shot.

Before the festival, HBO Sports scooped up “Diego Maradona,” British documentarian Asif Kapadia’s follow-up to Oscar-winning Cannes hit “Amy.” And after a 20-year symbiotic relationship, SPC acquired Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain & Glory” at the script stage two years ago, which now looks like an early contender for top prizes. SPC now has rights to all his films, and will book repertory Almodovar tributes in many cities around the film’s October opening.

Sony - Pictures - Classics - Co-president - Michael

“We’re selective,” said Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker, who picked up German 2019 Oscar nominee “Never Look Away” two years before it was finished. “We look at what might work theatrically, and with foreign language, the Oscar race is a factor.” Having released two of Ira Sachs’ films (“Love is Strange,” “Married Life”), SPC also nabbed “Frankie,” a European family drama starring Isabelle Huppert, Brendan Gleeson, and Marisa Tomei, on the basis of a screenplay and some early footage.

“Frankie”

Year - Box - Office - Films - Release

So far, this has been a difficult year for specialized box office. Of the seven films that crossed $5 million domestic in limited release, only four were dramas: Focus’ “The Mustang,” Viva Pictures’ Hindi-language “Gully Boy,” Roadside Attractions’ Christian title “Run the Race,” and Bleecker Street’s “Hotel Mumbai.”

So while Terrence Malick’s competition title “A Hidden Life” is seeking a buyer — and “Tree of Life” launched at Cannes 2011 to rave reviews and...
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