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French indies pounce on U.S. pix
Metropolitan, Wild Bunch, Mars go on Cannes spree
By: Elsa Keslassy
Posted On: May. 29, 2012
PARIS -- Underscoring the dynamism of France's distribution landscape, a trio of indie heavyweights -- Metropolitan Filmexport, Wild Bunch and Mars -- pre-bought some of the bigger-budgeted, high-profile American projects being shopped at the Cannes Film Market.
Samuel and Victor Hadida's Paris-based shingle Metropolitan Filmexport -- a top purveyor of U.S. pics in Gaul -- pre-bought "Catching Fire," the latest instalment of "The Hunger Games" from Lionsgate/Summit; the "Dirty Dancing" remake from Joe Drake's new company Good Universe; and two hot tickets from Megan Ellison's new production, financing and sales outfit Panorama: David O. Russell's "American Bullshit" with Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper; as well as Bennett Miller's follow up to "Moneyball," "Foxcatcher," with Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell and Channing Tatum.
Metropolitan also won one of the bidding wars of the French Riviera market, snatching up IM Global-repped Lee Daniels' pic "The Butler." Shingle will be releasing Daniels' "The Paperboy" in Gaul on Nov. 14.
Wild Bunch Distribution, headed by Jean-Philippe Tirel, also showed off its buying power, scoring such high-profile pickups as The Weinstein Co.'s "August: Osage County," Spike Jonze's untitled project, and Scott Stewart's supernatural thriller "Dark Skies."
American indie cinema not only made a big comeback in Cannes' Official Selection but also at the market, which was packed with strong U.S. product with top-notch talent attached.
"In contrast with Berlin or the AFM, we saw lots of interesting American projects being presented Cannes," said an insider, adding that the emergence of new sales companies such as Panorama and Good Universe has also energized the market.
Repped by IM Global's genre label Octane, "Dark Skies" is produced by Jason Blum through his Blumhouse Prods. banner, which worked well with Wild Bunch Distribution on "Paranormal Activity" and "Insidious."
"August," helmed by John Wells and based on Tracy Letts' Pulitzer-winning play, stars Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. Pic will start shooting this fall.
Jonze's untitled project, now in pre-production, is a romance toplining Rooney Mara, Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix.
Wild Bunch also acquired a pair of Directors' Fortnight players: Chilean Pablo Larrain's "No," winner of the Art Cinema prize; and Rodney Ascher's Sundance-preeming "Room 237," an edgy and playful documentary exploring a wide range of theories about the hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining."
"No," based on true events, stars Gael Garcia Bernal as an ad man who ousted Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from power in 1988 thanks to an upbeat ad campaign.
Meanwhile, Stephane Celerier's Mars Distribution pre-bought Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love," Gus Van Sant's contemporary drama "Promised Land" from Focus Features and Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" from Kinology.
Mars will release "Rome" (starring Allen, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, among others) in July.
"Promised Land," now shooting, is penned by John Krasinski and Matt Damon, who also star. "Spring Breakers," which toplines James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, sold to more than 20 territories at Cannes. Kinology will soon be closing a U.S. deal.
A highly competitive distribution market, France remains one the few territories in the world where distributors of all sizes -- from vertically-integrated groups like SND to independent outfits like Metropolitan -- engage in bidding wars against each other to acquire the most buzzed-about indie titles.
In 2011, Metropolitan, Mars and Wild Bunch were France's top three fully-independent distributors, driven in part by well-performing pics such as "The Ides of March," "Midnight in Paris" and "The King's Speech," respectively.