Movie Sales Agents & Packagers Mull June Online Presales Market In Lieu Of The Usual Cannes

Cannes March 2021, Vaccination Centre
Cannes, March 2021, Vaccination Centre. AP

EXCLUSIVE: Discussions are ongoing between dozens of top sales agents and the leading U.S. packaging firms about when they will do their main movie pre-sales business this summer.

Leading U.S. and UK sellers are among close to 50 companies in touch with each other by email about setting a date for an informal virtual market akin to the one they staged last year with the help of the packaging agents. Companies have been asked to propose their preferred dates for such an event and the idea is to go with the majority preference.

The dates, most likely to be in mid-late June, should be known in the next couple of weeks, we hear.

Last year, dozens of sales agents banded together to stage an unofficial virtual market which ultimately ran alongside the online Cannes Marché at the end of June. This year, things are shaping up a little differently.

The Marché has already announced that it will host what it is calling a “pre-Cannes screenings” event between May 25-28. The digital event, which is only viable for accredited Marché badge holders, will be an opportunity to screen finished films and for business to be done around those films. We understand the screenings will largely be for films that are unlikely to debut at major festivals this year.

In addition, Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Marché organizers (who we spoke to for this piece) are still expressing confidence that they will be able to stage a physical festival and market from July 6 – 15. Registration for the market is high, the Marché told us, with a large number of would-be attendees coming from the U.S. The Marché has said it will also provide an online platform in July for those unable to attend in person.

But with much of Europe experiencing a third wave of Covid and slow rollout of the vaccine across the continent, most industry we speak to are skeptical about the viability of staging Cannes in early July as a large-scale international event. France yesterday announced a third national lockdown with some restrictions lasting into May and the Palais in Cannes is currently being used as a vaccination center (as pictured above). If Cannes can go ahead in-person, most industry we speak to expect it to be a smaller-than-usual affair almost entirely concentrated on the festival titles.

Everyone’s ideal is to be back on the Riviera. But those sales companies that specialize in pre-selling English-language packages want to make sure they have a date in the diary to do the work they would ordinarily do on the Croisette should an in-person event not be possible. A number of leading companies have told us that May is too early for packages to be ready and July too late as it gets into the period of summer holidays. Thus, a date in June is looking most likely at the moment.

“These are two different things,” one leading seller told us. “There is no conflict or problem with the Marché. The needs are just different. We are talking about pre-sales of mostly English-language packages, which in an online sense doesn’t require the same digital market structure being proposed by the Marché.”

“We’d like to replicate what happened last year,” one packaging agent commented. “The structure of last year’s event worked well enough in place of us not being able to get to Cannes itself.”

This eventuality would mean there could be three film market-type events in the space of only six weeks: the pre-Cannes screenings in late May, an online pre-sales event in June and the Cannes festival/Marché in July.

It’s not ideal. Having distinct periods for business helps buyers focus and generates more heat in the market through competition. But as many sellers and buyers have told me, this is the new fragmented reality of Covid where business gets done at non-traditional times and companies need to be opportunistic and take a “guerilla” approach, as one called it.

“We are now organizing screenings throughout the year,” one seller told me. “So this won’t be a problem.”

It’s all very fluid. The companies organising the spinoff pre-sales event are in regular contact with the Marché and some have told us they will also take part in the May or July events organized by Cannes. Plenty of companies that don’t specialise in the bigger-budget English-language packages will be waiting to do their business in whatever platform the Marché proposes. And other companies we’ve spoken to have said they probably won’t take part in either platform but will deal with buyers directly.

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