EXCLUSIVE: This is the first Cannes market for eOne Films International since defining its global strategy under former Studiocanal exec Harold van Lier. He joined as President in January and was quickly armed with a $100M acquisitions fund to help “get our hands on the most sought-after films in the earliest stages,” he said at the time. Here in Cannes, two of eOne’s new projects, action thriller Eye In The Sky and drama Trumbo, have proved popular with buyers. Each has secured a significant all-rights deal with France’s TF1 whose theatrical releases go via French major UGC. Colin Firth, who stars in Eye In The Sky with Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul, is in Cannes today to talk up the film which he is also producing with Ged Doherty and eOne’s Xavier Marchand. Gavin Hood is directing. Trumbo is the Jay Roach-helmed story of legendary blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who is being played by Bryan Cranston. The French deals are meaningful given “the reality of how tough the French market is,” says van Lier. “Outside of the U.S., this is a big piece for us to tuck into” with “very competitive” pricetags. Charlotte van Weede, SVP of Sales, closed both deals in separate negotiations with Thierry Decourcelle at TF1. She has also pre-sold most of Asia, a region that this year in Cannes “has generally been really healthy, including Japan.” The majority of all international territories are expected to close by market’s end.
This is the second Cannes market since Canadian giant eOne took over rival Alliance in January 2013 and began transitioning to a combined entity. There have been some recent exec shifts at the mothership in Canada, but the international team is in place and looking to be aggressive with the ability to provide production financing, acquire multiple territories and sell elsewhere. Van Weede says this Cannes has been indicative of the transition since van Lier joined to build clear strategies for both eOne Films International and its boutique label Séville International. The former is focusing on bigger budget commercial cross-over films that can be pre-sold, à la Eye In The Sky. EOne is fully financing the movie and has distribution in its own territories (the UK, Canada, Benelux, Spain, and Australia/New Zealand). Van Lier told me recently, “We are a distributor in key territories coming in with a substantial amount of financing. If our money isn’t welcome, we’ll at least take distribution plus international sales.” EOne is acting as sales agent on Trumbo in all territories outside the UK, Canada and Australia/New Zealand where it will distribute directly. Montréal-based Séville, run by Anick Poirier, is working with indie films from strong directors that are festival and review driven. On those films, eOne intends to take distribution in the local market as it recently did with Penélope Cruz-starrer Ma Ma which Séville is selling and eOne is releasing in Spain.
“It’s an ideal business model that we’d like to take forward,” says van Lier. Not long ago, he told me, “People have been wondering for the last year and a half” what’s been going on at eOne. “Hint, eOne has been busy buying Alliance and merging the teams… All is done now. The next step is to beef up international.” Today, he said, “This has been a great first launch.”