CBS Films has overhauled under Terry Press and Wolfgang Hammer who were named co-presidents about a year ago. At the time, CBS Corp. president and CEO Les Moonves said, “They both possess the ‘roll-up-your-sleeves’ attitude for making, acquiring and marketing quality films for a division that is small in size, but laser-focused on assembling a mix of home-grown productions and acquisitions across a diverse range of genres.” Demonstrating its mettle here in Cannes, the company has the very high-profile Coen brothers movie Inside Llewyn Davis in Competition. It acquired the film in February after a screening on the Sony lot attracted lots of interest and created a competitive situation. CBS spent close to $4M to seal the deal. The movie will be a big part of CBS’ presence in Cannes, but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t looking to buy. It’s releasing about four to six pictures a year and has the flexibility to work across any genre. Although it has never acquired a foreign language film, it’s not out of the question, I’m told. Previous pick-ups include Lasse Hallstrom’s Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, horror hit The Woman In Black and Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths.
Related: Cannes: Actors To Watch
EOne is headed to its first Cannes since taking over rival Canadian giant Alliance Films. The company now has a distribution network that allows it to buy for the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, Spain, South Africa and Benelux. In Canada, eOne is the dominant player, with over 60 wide releases per year. In the UK, it is also among the major independents, but the buying strategy for the U.S. is slightly different. There, the company seeks mostly limited and platform releases. “We’re looking for an awards contender type of film, whether it be English-language or foreign language,” eOne chief of North America David Reckzeigel tells me. And generally, when a film is acquired for the U.S., it will also be taken for Canada. Elsewhere, the company comes in on more mainstream fare. In the U.S., eOne looks to pick up 12-15 movies a year and already has eight in the pipeline so “there are still a lot of slots to fill.” Reckzeigel expects to be “more aggressive” on U.S. buys. “In the U.S. we are able to step up more and more every year. I expect to be in the mix on most quality films… It’s a very competitive marketplace and there are a lot of companies so you have to be in the mix on a lot of titles to get one or two.” Eone mostly competes with IFC and Magnolia, but the fact that it has the ability to secure multi-territory deals is attractive to sellers, Reckzeigel contends, “and we use that to our advantage.”
Related: Cannes: Directors To Watch
Focus Features is hitting Cannes on the heels of re-upping CEO James Schamus for a new term, and promoting president Andrew Karpen to co-CEO. The company opened the Cannes Film Festival last year with Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and ahead of this year’s event, acquired worldwide rights to Kevin Macdonald’s Black Sea, an adventure thriller starring Jude Law. Also in April, it acquired domestic and Latin American rights on Matthew McConaughey-starrer Dallas Buyers Club. Ahead of that, its alt-distribution label Focus World picked up Sundance pic C.O.G. with Screen Media. And it’s had a nice run with Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond The Pines which it nabbed in Toronto. So, will it continue to be acquisitive here in Cannes? Last year it didn’t make any buys, but I hear it will be actively looking and will certainly be opportunistic. The company also produces its own films so is not beholden to filling a pipeline. But I’m told that deals may come if the movies are right. Along with Schamus and Karpen, the senior Focus team on the ground includes president of production Jeb Brody, EVP of international production Teresa Moneo and Focus Features International co-president Alison Thompson, who all work closely with Peter Kujawski, Universal’s EVP of worldwide acquisitions. Focus is understood to be looking at completed films as well as footage, packages and scripts. A person familiar with the thinking tells me that with international companies making more and more domestic-focused films (think Wild Bunch and Studiocanal, for example) it means there is more quantity and quality available in the marketplace.
Related: Cannes: Producers To Watch
Sony Pictures Classics
A traditionally active company in Cannes, Sony Pictures Classics last year had two movies coming into the fest. Competition titles Amour and Rust And Bone both went on to be awards season contenders with Amour taking the Best Foreign Language Oscar along with being nominated for Best Picture. On Day One of Cannes in 2012, Tom Bernard and Michael Barker acquired Susanne Bier’s Love Is All You Need and later on they picked up Chilean film No. This year, they aren’t bringing anything with them. Barker is already on the ground in Cannes but Bernard arrives Friday after tending to the Before Midnight premiere in New York. Bernard calls the festival “my worst ten days of the year.” He’s only half-joking. It’s true the pace here is frenzied and execs have to be very mobile to catch screenings where “the movie theaters maybe seat 50 people and 100 are trying to get in.” Bernard says this year each of the SPC execs has about eight movies so far on their roster of must-sees and they’ll buy if they see something they like. “Our company is unique,” he says since he and Barker make the deicisions. So, they can walk right out of a screening and make a deal. “Most people are three people away from the decider.” But Bernard says foreign language movies are harder to make work in the U.S. these days. “We’ve been lucky with which ones we think we can bring into the marketplace. But everyone goes in very carefully. There’s a lot of pushback in the ancillary areas so when you’re spending money, you have to spend it wisely.” Bernard concludes telling me, “It’s been the same every year, but the same is different every year.”
The Weinstein Co.
A perennial distributor to watch who’s always busy at the festival, The Weinstein Co.’s pick-ups of the past few years have included The Artist, The Iron Lady and Lawless. Company chief Harvey Weinstein can often set the pace of a Cannes market. (Just now, my colleague Mike Fleming reports he hears that the company is in exclusive negotiations for Judi Dench-starrer Philomena in the U.S., Canada and Spain.) Last year, TWC acquired The Sapphires on the eve of the start and made an opportunistic deal for hunt for Bin Laden pic Code Name Geronimo. In the 2013 official selection, TWC has James Gray’s The Immigrant in Competition and specialty label Radius-TWC has Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives also in that section. In Un Certain Regard, it’s got Sundance hit Fruitvale Station. Regarding acquisitions, COO David Glasser tells me that it’s not a question of being aggressive or not. As with every year, “we’re very focused coming in,” he says. The company will continue to be opportunistic but it’s also about finding the right release date and seeing how a movie slots into the year ahead. They’ll be out screening films they’ve already identified, but wouldn’t mind a surprise or two. “Harvey and I love nothing more than getting a phone call saying ‘I just saw the best movie.’”
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