A Quiet Market in Cannes? Not for Sony Classics and the Weinsteins; SPC Gets Haneke's "Caché", TWC Secures Cash & 3 More Movies
by Eugene Hernandez
By all accounts, the market in Cannes was a quiet one for U.S. buyers. As of lunchtime Friday, only two competition titles had been snapped up (both by Sony Pictures Classics), with few other deals anticipated. Despite the lack of acquisitions involving U.S. studio specialty companies or the New York based indies, two companies have been especially active this week, The Weinstein Company and Sony Pictures Classics. SPC acquired the acclaimed Michael Haneke film "Caché," while TWC secured a round of cash and a trio of new titles.
Sony Classics Active in France
The closest thing to a real nail-biter bidding war among U.S. based buyers here in Cannes so far was the battle for Michael Haneke's "Caché" the Cannes competition entry that first screened a week ago and is tipped as a front-runner for a top prize tomorrow. The film is the story of a French family (Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, and Lester Makedonsky) terrorized by a stalker who delivers secretly shot video tapes and bloody caricature drawings that become increasing personal, ultimately leading to the revelation of secrets from the past. Early on, it seemed as if one of the New York indies would nab the film, with the Indiewood studio specialty divisions seeming shy about tackling the film. Yesterday, as the critical acclaim and awards buzz hit a peak, Sony Pictures Classics closed its deal. "Cache is a magnificent film by one of the world' finest directors. We cannot wait to introduce Michael Haneke to a wider American audience. This film is not only of the highest quality but very accessible as well."
Sony Pictures Classics has also nabbed the Cannes competition entry "Joyeux Noel" (Merry Christmas) for distribution in the U.S., U.K., Italy and Latin America. Christian Carion's film is set during the first World War and was eyed by numerous buyers. And earlier this week, Sony Classics used the Marché du Film to announce that it will again work with Pedro Almodóvar, making a deal for "Volver" (Return), the filmmaker's new comedy that will star Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura. "Volver" will begin shooting in July and is expected to have a U.S. release in June of 2006, following an eight film Sony Pictures Classics retrospective of Almodóvar's work in the United States.
Weinsteins Unveil Plans and Projects
Emerging before our eyes here at the Marché du Film in Cannes, Bob and Harvey Weinstein's temporarily named The Weinstein Company is making news again today with the announcement that it has secured a round of financing, acquired another three films and brought a producer into the mix at the nascent outfit, which launches officially in October.
The Weinsteins have issued numerous announcements at this Cannes Market, nabbing many headlines in the daily papers here. Yesterday, The Weinstein Company confirmed that it has secured a significant equity investment from Goldman Sachs. While financial terms were not revealed, the company said in a statement that will work closely with the group to launch this fall.
"We are thrilled with this important relationship that provides us with the resources to produce and market the exciting slate of films that we have planned," said Bob and Harvey Weinstein in a statement yesterday. "We look forward to getting to work."
The brothers announced a number of new acquisitions and projects this week in Cannes, adding three more titles to the slate yesterday. The Weinstein Company acquired North American distribution rights to David Leland's "Decameron" with Hayden Christensen and Mischa Barton, Doug Lefler's "Last Legion" with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley, and Peter Webber's "Young Hannibal," all produced by Dino de Laurentiis, Martha de Laurentiis and Tarak Ben Ammar. Accomplished poducer Ammar is expected to join the board of The Weinstein Company.
"Tarak Ben Ammar has been a friend for over 15 years," said Harvey and Bob Weinstein in a statement. "He's been a great advisor, and is one of the most powerful voices in media in Europe."
These announcements cap a busy week in Cannes for The Weinstein Company at the Cannes Film Festival, including the premiere of its first film, "Wolf Creek," and the announcements of a formal relationship with Rainbow Media yesterday, the partnerships with IDG New Media Fund on the acquisition of "The Promise," and with Kanbar Entertainment the acquisition of "Hoodwinked!" Other deals include the acquisitions of "Nomad," the sci-fi title "Outlander," Geoffrey Sax's "Stormbreaker," and Duncan Tucker's "Transamerica," which was grabbed out of the Tribeca Film Festival.
Get the latest from France on the indieWIRE @ Cannes blog.