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Weinstein Co. Dominates Cannes 2012 with Advance Pick-Ups UPDATED

Weinstein Co. Dominates Cannes 2012 with Advance Pick-Ups UPDATED

As the 65th Cannes Film Festival ramps up for yet another glitzy opening on the Riviera May 16, with Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” Harvey Weinstein is showing his muscle.

The French have never more adored the indie powerhouse, who scored five Oscars for “The Artist” last year, including Best Picture and Actor. Cannes director Thierry Fremaux was among the revelers on Oscar night, and felt partly responsible for its success, as he had booked the film at Cannes 2011, moving it into competition after Weinstein acquired the film off a pre-fest Paris Wild Bunch screening. Dujardin won best actor at Cannes en route to his Oscar (though not the Cesar, which was won by Omar Sy, star of yet another TWC pick-up “The Intouchables,” which opens this month stateside).

The Weinsteins are all over Cannes this year too. They come into the festival having already picked up competition films from John Hillcoat, the prohibition era drama “Lawless,” starring a sprawling ensemble led by Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy as brothers running illegal booze in Virginia, and Andrew Dominik’s gangster saga “Killing Me Softly,” which returns Brad Pitt to the red carpet after the Palme d’Or-winning “The Tree of Life” last year. Right before the festival they scooped up market title (for some $4 million) to “Quartet,” Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut starring Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Billy Connolly as three people in a home for aging opera stars. And right on the eve of opening day, they acquired most territories for the out-of-competition official selection, “The Sapphires,” directed by Aboriginal actor and theater director Wayne Blair.

Written by Aboriginal playwright Tony Briggs, whose mother and family members were part of The Sapphires group, and Keith Thompson, the movie stars “Bridesmaids” funnyman Chris O’Dowd, Aboriginal actress Deborah Mailman (Radiance”) and Aussie pop star Jessica Mauboy (“Bran Nue Dae”). Warwick Thornton, previous winner of the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for “Samson and Delilah,” is the film’s cinematographer.

Stateside acquisitions execs are hoping that Weinstein leaves them something to buy. “TWC has everything,” said one buyer putting together his company’s black book schedule. Word is, TWC is expected to nab James Gray’s unfinished New York immigrant drama “Low Life,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner, out of the Cannes market. EOne, which is moving into stateside distribution, acquired David Cronenberg’s competition title starring Rob Pattinson, “Cosmopolis,” which earned mixed response at pre-fest distributor screenings, as did Walter Salles’ movie version of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” which was acquired by IFC and Sundance Selects.

Still on the table are “Paper Boy,” Lee Daniels’ follow-up to “Precious,” starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey, and another film with the Texas actor, “Mud,” Jeff Nichols’ follow-up to “Take Shelter,” which screens at fest’s end; seller FilmNation will show it to market buyers on Wednesday. No early press screening is scheduled, alas, which I hope will change, as I’m not the only one to leave before Saturday. (Kidman also stars as a war correspondent in Philip Kaufman’s out-of-competition HBO biopic “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” co-starring Clive Owen as her love interest and sparring partner; Annette Insdorf saw the film and has more details.)

Focus Features was happy to book Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” on opening night for several reasons. One, Anderson had never gotten the Cannes treatment. There’s nothing like a rousing walk up the Palais red carpet for a filmmaker. And, says James Schamus, they decided to follow the playbook established so successfully by Sony Pictures Classics last year with Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” which opened in Europe and America right after its Cannes debut and went on to become the original screenplay Oscar-winning, highest-grossing indie title of the year. The Cannes response to “Kingdom” will suggest whether a repeat performance is in the cards.

Searchlight is at the fest with Ben Zeitlin’s Louisiana bayou drama and Sundance grand jury prize winner “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and will be in the hunt for titles. Sony Pictures Classics, which acquired Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” starring Jean_Louis Traingnant and Emmanuelle Riva, and Jacques Audiard’s “Rust & Bone,” also starring Cotillard, who is supposed to be very good in it, will slug it out with IFC Films for foreign titles, scouring the fest thoroughly. IFC has already grabbed the Romanian competition film from Cristian Mungiu, “Beyond the Hills.” They also handled his Oscar nominee “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.” IFC also brought Adam Leon’s Bronx-shot SXSW debut “Gimme the Loot” and Rodney Ascher’s Sundance Stanley Kubrick doc “Room 237.”

Magnolia Pictures, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, CBS Films, Music Box, Open Road, Oscilloscope, FilmDistrict, LD Releasing and Cohen Media, as well as studio acquisitions groups, will also be searching for a range of fare marketable in the U.S. “A whole lot of people are looking for movies,” says SPC’s Tom Bernard. “Everybody’s got a different agenda on what they’re going to do with them.”

After four hours of Delta transatlantic sleep, I’m ready to engage with Cannes 65. The sun is out, the sky is blue, the wifi is speedy, I’ve got my pink badge. Our Indiewire apartment has about two electrical outlets as well as only two keys for four people, but we’ll manage. The location is ideal, just blocks from the oceanside Croisette, about halfway between two major meeting nexuses, The Grand and The Majestic.

I’ve already rescheduled two meetings at The Grand, with Toronto Fest Director Cameron Bailey and Venice Fest’s Guilia D’Agnolo Vallan, from today to tomorrow, and will meet the usual gang of miscreants at the Pizza tonight, a venerable Cannes tradition. Tomorrow, “Moonrise Kingdom.”

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