We’re four days into the EFM and so far action has been fairly slow. But just this afternoon, The Weinstein Co. picked up U.S. rights to IM Global’s Blood Sisters: Vampire Academy, one of the hotter projects coming into the market. It’s not a given that the deal will kickstart further movement, but other projects understood to be generating domestic interest include Nicole Kidman-starrer Grace Of Monaco, repped by CAA, and Diana, with Naomi Watts, which Embankment is handling.
Other domestic deals include Sony Pictures Classics‘ acquisition of The Invisible Woman, a film to star Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones and Fiennes’ English Patient partner Kristin Scott Thomas. Fiennes also directs. And, The Weinstein Co. announced a deal for Wong Kar Wai’s opening night (out of competition) film The Grandmaster at the start of the fest. It’s fair to say that Berlin is not traditionally about the kind of big business that’s seen in Sundance, Toronto or Cannes. Companies have reported steady sales for overseas, but one key exec put it to me the other day, “Whatever people say at the end of these markets, business is soft.”
It’s undeniable that the financial crisis in Europe and elsewhere continues to play a part in lower prices for films, with Greece and Italy still down in terms of buying and what they can pay. Key overseas territories remain the UK, France, Germany, Russia and Latin America. But with both the UK and Canada facing contraction due to the eOne takeover of Alliance and problems in the DVD retail sector in Britain, “Prices have dropped because it’s less competitive,” one foreign exec tells me. We reported yesterday that UK distributor Revolver may be on the brink of shuttering. Still, recently-announced projects like Johnny Depp-starrer Black Mass at Exclusive and Jeremy Renner-starrer Kill The Messenger at Focus Features International are said to be hot titles for overseas.
Among the competition films, there’s been little activity. Although we’re only just about halfway through the screenings, there’s not much palpable buzz surrounding the hardcore art house lineup. An exec tells me “I literally don’t think there’s a single film in the festival that domestic buyers are excited about.”
While a handful of star-driven packages came down the pike in the week leading up to Berlin and on the eve of the market, the flurry of new project announcements that usually materializes during the first couple of days was a trickle at best compared to last year. Execs continue to lament the short window that is a bugaboo of the EFM’s position on the calendar and the residual fatigue from Park City is evident. “You can tell who the people are who are coming from Sundance. It’s hell. Buyers can’t concentrate on a film because the markets were so close. Even if you’re Wonder Woman, you can’t take in so many films and have perspective,” says an exec. Another sales pro says, “Berlin always take longer because it takes a while to get the movies all packaged up.” And yet another says there’s a lack of good product to be put together in the first place.