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European Film Market Sees Dealmaking Rebound Post-Strikes for Splashy U.S. Packages and Select International Titles: ‘Everyone Needs Movies Again’


As the European Film Market starts to unwind, the verdict is already in: Even if global economics are rocky, buyers are back and on the lookout. This week, dealmaking has been happening on both star-driven packages as well as arthouse and foreign-language movies.

In a sign that the theatrical business is rebounding, Sony just scooped a pair of splashy packages: “Materialists,” Celine Song’s follow up to “Past Lives,” and “Big Bold Beautiful Journey” starring Margot Robbie and Colin Farrell. Another hot package, David Mackenzie’s heist thriller “Fuze,” headlined by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is also close to selling. Movies competing at the Berlin Film Festival are also expected to secure U.S. deals, notably “La Cocina” starring Rooney Mara, and opening night movie “Small Things Like These” with Cillian Murphy.

Scott Shooman, head of AMC Networks, which encompasses IFC Films, says he’s seen the mood of sales agents brighten after a “tough” American Film Market in 2023.

“I think the strikes, whether directly or indirectly, just inhibited people’s ability to do the downstream sales operations, so it was nice that there was optimism here for the first market in a little while,” Shooman says.

“We’ve seen Sony buying a couple movies and we’re going to see some other studios buying other films,” he adds. “Whether it’s a streamer or a traditional studio, I think there will be other sales that occur that show everyone needs movies again and is trying to find the right product.”

The executive, who is a Sony alumnus, pointed out “markets often have correcting abilities, meaning the market establishes the right price to make a movie.” He suggested, however, that some projects might not sell here and will “reappear in later markets at different price points.” The hot sellers he says, are the ones with “big cast,” and “genres that are the most trusted, like action and sci-fi thriller.”

Over at AGC, the company’s CEO and chairman, Stuart Ford, says “Sugar Bandits,” starring Will Smith; Melanie Laurent’s “The Mother,” starring Michelle Yeoh; and “Epiphany” with Sylvester Stallone, have “all been hugely impressive sellers here.”

Ford says it was “too early in the year to say whether this is going to be an extended market bounce back or if we’re just benefiting from an incredibly strong slate and some post-strike enthusiasm.”

At least one of AGC’s projects, “Sugar Bandits,” could get bought by a streamer, such as Apple, which had recently handled another Will Smith movie, “Emancipation.” The project, which doesn’t yet have a director attached, is said to be budgeted in the $90 million range, which makes it hardly accessible for independent distributors, who wouldn’t be able to recoup a minimum guarantee of $10 million in the local market.

Hugo Grumbar at Embankment, which brought to the market the shingle’s first-ever animated feature, “Bollywoof,” also rejoiced about the fact that “buyers are in attendance, they are engaged and most importantly they are pre-buying again. … It shows once again the resilience of the independent market.”

Over at Paris-based Charades, which is repping international rights on “Kneecap” and “In a Violent Nature,” Carole Baraton and Yohann Comte said “a clear indication that the market was in a healthy place is that screenings were packed, even for movies that had already opened elsewhere.”

Brian Beckmann at Arclight Films, who is selling Paul Schrader’s “Oh, Canada” with Jacob Elordi and Richard Gere, said that buyers are being more selective and they “are very much looking for not just product, but they’re looking for that quality theatrical material that they can get behind.”

He adds, ”And it’s not just plugging slots that they have with the streamers and I think that is a little bit different from it was last year, where a lot of distributors were kind of catching up from the pandemic.”

But Jean Labadie, a well-known industry figure who runs the distribution company Le Pacte, said he wishes there were more “interesting U.S. projects” available on the market. “We don’t have a large choice, because the streamers and studios have bought the projects we were potentially interested in for global rights, as it happens more and more often,” Labadie said, specifically citing Celine Song’s “The Materialists.”

Labadie, who has had a banner year releasing Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall” along with a string of popular movies in France, said the box office success of Triet’s Oscar contender, as well as Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest” has been “extraordinary and comforting” for independent cinema, which he argues can thrive alongside the Hollywood tentpoles.