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CANNES ’06 MARKET DAILY: The Return of MGM; Strand’s “Dolls”; Fortissimo Pacts; New Celluloid Label

CANNES '06 MARKET DAILY: The Return of MGM; Strand's "Dolls"; Fortissimo Pacts; New Celluloid Label

MGM COO Rick Sands hosted an informal breakfast with journalists early Sunday morning to tout the future line up and viability of the legendary Hollywood studio. As previously announced, MGM will be handling the U.S. distribution rights to “Rocky Balboa,” written, directed and starring Sylvester Stallone. Sands, a former Miramax exec, plugged the film to the attending journalists, saying he expected the film to be a contender during awards season. “What happens will very much depend on the mood of the [U.S.] come awards season, but there’s nomination potential for actor, and directing,” said Sands, who also noted the film’s release will be tied to a marketing campaign promoting the studio’s Rocky catalog for DVD.

[indieWIRE’s Cannes ’06 Market Daily column is being published in the Cannes Market News print dailies, produced by Le Film Francais and the Marche du Film. 13,000 copies of the English-language publication are available in all festival venues, hotels and throughout Cannes.]

Sands also gave insight into the studio’s business and distribution plans, revealing the company will release about 15 films this year and 22 – 24 next year in the U.S. with Fox partnering on the international end. “The MGM brand means something both internally and externally, and we’re trying to protect it with quality [product],” said Sands, hyping the studio’s current and future roster.

In addition to “Rocky” MGM will release Mark Friedman and Irwin Winkler‘s military vet drama “Home of the Brave,” starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel and rapper 50 Cent. Also slated for release is Kevin Smith‘s “Clerks 2.” The company recently distributed “Lucky Number Slevin” with The Weinstein Company.

As for now, there are no plans to revive MGM’s specialty label United Artists. “We’re not looking for specialized movies with only the intention of staying specialized,” said Sands. “That is not what MGM is. Other studios have specialized labels, but that is not what [we plan to do].” Sands, however, did say that plans can change as time passes. [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]

Strand Releasing Sashays to “Paper Dolls”

U.S. rights to Tomer Heymann‘s doc “Paper Dolls” has been picked up by Strand Releasing, the company’s co-presidents Marcus Hu and Jon Gerrans announced from Cannes Sunday. Andrew Herwitz, president of the Film Sales Company (and the film’s associate producer) as well as Markus Bartmeller of Greenberg Traurig negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers with Hu and Gerrans. Other deals for foreign rights and U.S. domestic television rights are in negotiation. Strand plans a national rollout beginning with its premiere at the Film Forum in New York in September.

“Paper Dolls,” which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival this year, explores themes of the changing patterns of global immigration and expanding notions of family through the prism of a community of Filipino transvestites who immigrated to Israel to work as live-in caregivers for elderly religious Jewish men, according to a Strand release. When not working, they do drag performances in Tel Aviv in a group called The Paper Dolls. The film is produced by Claudia Levin of Claudius Films, Stanley Buchthal and Heymann.

“Marcus and Jon really understand the emotional core of the film. I am excited to be working on the release,” commented Heymann in a release. Current Strand releases include Dominik Moll‘s “Lemming,” Francois Ozon‘s “Time to Leave,” and Fatih Akin‘s “Crossing the Bridge.” [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]

A scene from “The Go Master.”

Fortissimo Inks Multiple Pacts

Fortissimo Films has closed a number of deals so far here in Cannes, the company said late Sunday. “The Go Master” has been sold to Japan (SPO), Israel (United King) and Greece (Village Roadshow), while “Invisible Waves” is also set in Japan (SPO). “Candy” has been sold to the U.K. (ICA Projects) and “Gypsy Caravan” has been nabbed in (Pretty Pictures) France, while a multiple film package including “Taxidermia,” “Broken Sky” and “Cut Sleeve Boys” has been closed in Thailand (Mongkol). The company also said that there are multiple offers in for “Shortbus” in the U.K. [Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE]

Celluloid Dreams to produce Nightmares

Paris based international sales, production and distribution company Celluloid Dreams announced their new label Celluloid Nightmares to cater to the horror and suspense film genres. The first film to be released under the new banner is director Andreas Prochaska‘s Austrian teen-slasher film “Dead in Three Days.” Produced by Allgrofilm, “Dead in Three Days” is set to premier in the Cannes Film Market. “It’s stylish, smart and sick,” said Celluloid’s president Hengameh Panahi in a statement about “Three Day.” “In some ways it’s a hip, Austrian ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer.'” The second release from the new label will be psychological thriller “Joshua,” starring Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga. The film is produced by Johnathan Dorman and Temple Fennell of ATO Pictures, and is directed by George Ratliff (“Hell House“). [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]

Weinstein Company and Jim Henson Company Pick “Unstable Fables”

The Weinstein Company has initiated a new brand of direct-to-video computer generated animation that The Jim Henson Company, Flame Ventures and Prana Studios will produce with screenplays overseen by Roger S.H. Schulman (“Shrek“). The new “Unstable Fables” brand will include a series of feature length films that The Weinstein Company says will “irreverently tell well-known tales and incorporate modern twists on the stories.” The series will launch with films based on “Goldilocks,” “The Three Little Pigs,” and “Billy Goats Gruff.” Production on the titles is slated for September 2006 and TWC will distribute the features through their affiliate Genius Products, Inc. JHC’s Lisa Henson, Flame’s Tony Krantz and Prana Studios will produce, while production exec Eric Robinson will manage the projects for TWC, and Glen Basner will handle international sales rights of the brand for Weinstein.

“The Jim Henson Company, Tony Krantz and Prana Studios are all incredibly talented and make one impressive tem for ‘Unstable Fables,'” commented Bob and Harvey Weinstein in a statement. “These films will be time honored and give a new generation of fans the chance to discover these classic tales, especially supported by the enthusiasm of fans all over the world who grew up with the originals.” [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]

Celluloid Dreams Takes Rights to “Broken English”

Worldwide rights to writer/director Zoe Cassavetes‘ “Broken English” have been acquired by Paris-based sales, production and distribution company Celluloid Dreams, the company announced Sunday from Cannes. The film, which stars Parker Posey, Gena Rowlands, Melville Poupard, Drea DeMatteo and Peter Bogdonavitch, began production May 5 and is being produced by Vox3‘s Andrew Fierberg as well as HDNet Films co-presidents Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente. Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban are executive producing the project and HDNet Films is co-producing with Japan-based Phantom Film in association with Back Up Films in France. This will be the feature directorial debut of Zoe Cassavetes, daughter of veteran director John Cassavetes. [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]

Atrix Scores Rights to Music Doc “Last Applause”

German-based sales company Atrix Films is handling international sales outside of Germany and Japan for German Kral‘s tango music documentary “The Last Applause” (aka “El Chino Tango Bar“), which is currently shooting through August in Buenos Aires at the Tango Dance World Championship. The film features singer Cristina de Los Angeless and her friends at the local tango bar. “Applause” is described by Atrix as an “emotional story of a group of forgotten tango singers, who used to perform in the famous El Chino Tango Bar in Buenos Aires. Battling to earn a living during the country’s biggest-ever crisis, the singers come together to realize their dream: to give one last concert and to bask in the warm audience applause, perhaps for the last time in their lives.” Tokyo-based Happinet Corp., which previously acquired “Musica Cubana” by Kral, is financing “The Last Applause.” Michio Suzuki of Happinet negotiated the deal with Beatrix Wesle of Atrix Films. [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]

Europa Cinemas Meet in Cannes Amid Declining Ticket Sales

Exhibitors belonging to the Europa Cinemas network met in Cannes recently against the backdrop of declining cinema attendance, though the group as a whole succeeded in its goal of increasing the proportion of European films. In 2005, nearly 60% of screens played exclusively European product and the proportion of European films distributed outside their country of origin increased from 34% to 37%. Concerns raised during the conference included vulnerability of cinemas to new forms of film distribution and the costs associated with adapting to digital projection. Europa Cinemas is active in 59 countries and representing nearly 1600 screens. The organization is supported in part by the European Union’s Media Plus and Euromed Audiovisuals II programs. The next Europa Cinemas conference takes place in Paris November 16 – 19. [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]

Lancaster and Walters Plan Bold Films

Independent producer David Lancaster is teaming up with Gary Michael Walters to be the co-presidents of Bold Films. Founded in 2004, the company aims to produce three or four “star driven” independent features per year. Joining Lancaster at Bold Films will be former David Lancaster Productions executives Paul J. Salamoff as the Vice President of Production and Barrick Dion as the Director of Development. Donald Bruce, formerly of Nu Image Films, will be Bold’s Vice President of Finance. [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]

Hamptons International Film Fest and indieWIRE to toast Producer Ted Hope

The Hampton’s International Film Festival, in conjunction with online trade publication indieWIRE, will be honoring producer Ted Hope at the Hamptons’ third annual “Industry Toast” during their festival in October. For the third year in a row, the festival and indieWIRE have honored industry professionals who have made significant and lasting contributions to the independent film world. Past Toast recipients have been Sony Picture Classics co-president Marcie Bloom and Picturehouse president Bob Berney. Hope, the founder of the New York based production company This is That, has become one of the most successful independent producers, producing films such as “American Splendor,” “21 Grams,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and the new “Friends With Money.”

“Taking into account innovation, integrity, a substantial body of work, and respect from peers, one name stood out: Ted Hope,” says Hamptons Film Festival executive director Denise Kasell. Adds festival programmer Rajendra Roy, “Ted has infused the cinematic landscape with vistas on innovation and genius.” [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]

Wiesenthal Docs Get International Release

Cinema Management Group (CMG) is licensing nine Simon Wiesenthal feature documentaries for international distribution. Germany’s Polyband, the UK’s Stax Entertainment and Scandinavia’s Camro Films will all release his films, such as Oscar winners “The Long Way Home” and “Genocide.” CMG will also be releasing the Wiesenthal portrait “I Have Not Forgotten You,” in September to coincide with the first anniversary of his death. Narrated by Nicole Kidman and directed by Richard Trank, the film will be released through Polyband, Stax Entertainment and Camro Films. [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]

“Absolute Wilson” Goes to Kino Welt

Director Katharina Otto-Bernstie‘s new documentary “Absolute Wilson” was just picked up for international sale by German company Kino Welt. The North American rights, not secured by Kino Welt, were acquired by New Yorker Films for theatrical release and HBO for television rights. “Absolute Wilson” is about the theatrical artist Robert Wilson whose abstract theater pieces have garnered much attention. The film, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, is screening in the Cannes Market before screening at the international art festival Art Basel in June, where Wilson himself will be attending. “Absolute Wilson” will be in theaters this fall, along with a companion book of the same name full of quotes, pictures and documents of the artist. [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]

[Get the latest from the Festival de Cannes throughout the day in indieWIRE’s special Cannes ’06 section.]

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