Buyers flinch in Cannes as sellers ramp up asking prices

Source: Pathe

‘Emilia Perez’

Amid a generally positive market the familiar gripe of high asking prices has sent a clear message that buyers and sellers are finding it increasingly tough to reconcile their respective financial models.

The tension remains particularly acute on A-list market packages, where independent producers have fought (and paid) to attract and hold on to talent in a post-strike world where hefty offers from studios and streamers, driven by talent agents, have been hard to resist.

The ripple effect has forced sales agents to push up their asks in order to recoup financiers’ investments. Sales estimates set more than a year ago, when deep-pocketed streamers were more active in the market, coupled with inflation, have also made the situation challenging.

Sellers have been aggressive on buzzy festival selections that have popped here, too. Screen has heard Goodfellas bumped up its $600,000 price tag on Italian rights to Jacques Audiard’s Competition entry Emilia Perez to $1m.

Similarly, buyers have spoken of eye-watering asks on territories for Coralie Fargeat’s The Substance and Mohammad Rasoulof’s The Seed Of The Sacred Fig.

Neon picked up North America on Rasoulof’s film amid ongoing caution among US buyers lacking robust pay-1 deals to back big bets; a situation that also affects international buyers.

San Fu Maltha of Dutch distributor Perisccop, whose market acquisitions have included the documentaries Black Box Diaries from Dogwoof and Hung Up On A Dream sold by Utopia, was nonetheless among several Benelux buyers ruffled by prices.

“I don’t want to offer at this point,” he said. “Prices were slightly too optimistic when packages were put together two years ago, when the market was more buoyant and there was more optimism about streamer deals and distribution companies needing content… We’ve seen films hit the market and not deliver on those estimates.”

UK sellers have reported a positive market, although attendance from Japan, Australia and New Zealand was believed to be soft, while the Russians have been buying. Several Hong Kong sellers said the market still had not rediscovered pre-Covid momentum, while Asian buyers in China and Singapore have been active.

Singapore independent distributor Thomas Chia’s Lighthouse Film Distribution acquired All We Imagine As Light, the first Indian film in competition in three decades; Media Asia clocked up new sales on-site for Hong Kong action thriller Twilight Of The Warriors: Walled In, with deals closing for South Korea (Contents Panda), India (Indo Overseas), Eastern Europe (Polemedia), and Indonesia and Cambodia (Westec Media). 

Todd Olsson, president of international sales at US-based Highland Film Group, reported a strong response across the slate, particularly on Justin Chadwick action thriller Sierra Madre starring Kiefer Sutherland, and John Stalberg, Jr.’s Muzzle: City Of Wolves starring Aaron Eckhart.

“This is the busiest market we have had in years,” said Olsson. “Everybody’s aggressively pursuing content.”

Much talk has also centred on the state of the market ecosystem itself. TIFF announced it will launch an official content market in 2026, after it emerged earlier this year that AFM is moving to Las Vegas for its 2024 edition. Last night attendees at a Marché reception heard that Ventana Sur is in exclusive talks to relocate to Uruguay later this year.

Additional reporting by Mona Tabbara, Geoffrey Macnab and Sylvia Wong

Originally published at https://www.screendaily.com/news/buyers-flinch-in-cannes-as-sellers-ramp-up-asking-prices/5193827.article

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