Buyers return to Cannes like swallows to the Capistranos, but this year they’ll find a hostile landscape. Too many buyers, too few titles, and streaming-service disruptors are driving up prices all the while, making North American prebuys increasingly necessary.
That’s hazardous terrain: Witness the Weinstein Company’s $6 million bid for transgender drama “3 Generations” (aka “After Ray”). Two years later, after a title change and poor reviews on and off the festival circuit, the drama starring Elle Fanning and Susan Sarandon finally received a May 5 release. Total domestic gross to date: $46,421.
That was in 2015, the last year that TWC held its then-annual dog-and-pony show for buyers and press at the Majestic Hotel. This year, like the last, they’ll hold court on their yacht, which also serves as their offices — still tony, but on a budget; it’s a lot less expensive than that prime Croissette real estate. Meanwhile, competitors like Netflix and Amazon have seemingly bottomless pockets.
But sellers need buyers, and everyone needs movies. We expect many North American theatrical buyers to overpay for the few English-language movies for sale. (A prime target: Sean Baker’s Director’s Fortnight title “The Florida Project.”) On the financing side, most producers have to raise funding from overseas territories, where genre is king. The exceptions come when an auteur-level filmmaker like Denis Villeneuve or Mike Leigh pushes daring projects like “Arrival” or Amazon’s upcoming 19th-century costume drama “Peterloo.”
All that said, let the games begin. Here’s our (alphabetical) IndieWire Players Guide to 16 theatrical buyers (among many more) that will be trawling for movies at Cannes.
Key Players: Co-founders David Fenkel, John Hodges, and Daniel Katz.
Known for: Edgy arthouse pleasers that eschew conventional storytelling norms.
Breakout Hits: Best Picture-winner “Moonlight” (the company’s first original production), Oscar-winners “Ex Machina,” “Room,” and “Amy,” and smart horror flick “The Witch.”
Cannes agenda: A24 has never bought a completed film at Cannes, but the company is launching four Cannes titles this year: Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” the Safdie brothers’ “Good Time,” and two midnight entries from John Cameron Mitchell (“How to Talk to Girls at Parties”) and Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire (“A Prayer Before Dawn”).
Key players: VP Roy Price, worldwide motion picture head Jason Ropell, production chief Ted Hope, distribution chief Bob Berney, and acquisitions executive Scott Foundas.
Known for: Last year the streaming giant came into Cannes as a new studio with five auteur titles: Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society” (Lionsgate), Park Chan-Wook’s “The Handmaiden” (Magnolia), Jim Jarmusch’s music documentary “Gimme Danger” (Magnolia) and “Paterson” (Bleecker Street), and Nic Winding Refn’s “Neon Demon” (Broad Green), all set for conventional theatrical release.
Breakout hits: It turned out exhibitors did fine with Amazon’s movies, especially Oscar-winning “Manchester By the Sea,” which was released by Roadside Attractions to $47 million. Other hits included Whit Stillman’s Jane Austen comedy “Love & Friendship” (Roadside) and Cohen Media’s Cannes prizewinner, Asghar Farhadi drama “The Salesman,” which ultimately collected the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
Cannes agenda: Launch Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck” (Roadside Attractions), starring Oscar perennials Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore, which covers two stories in two period time frames, one black-and-white, and one in color, as well as Lynne Ramsay‘s “You Were Never Really Here,” in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a war veteran trying to save a young girl from sex traffickers. And, hunt for more director-driven titles likely to play well in arthouse cinemas.
Key players: Megan Ellison, CEO; Marc Weinstock, president of Annapurna; Chelsea Barnard, president of film; Sammy Scher, VP of acquisitions; Erik Lomis, president of distribution.
Known for: Backing classy projects from auteur directors, from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” and Spike Jonze’s “Her” to Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Recent titles: “20th Century Women,” “Sausage Party,” “Everybody Wants Some!!,” and “Wiener-Dog.”
Cannes agenda: Introduce the world stage to the new Annapurna distribution company, which launches its 2017 slate in August with Bigelow and Mark Boal’s “Detroit.” They are partnered with Focus on PTA’s untitled reunion with Oscar-friendly Daniel Day-Lewis. And as the new buyer on the block, they may be the player most willing to plunk down money to fill their first slate.