With Flood of New Projects, Berlin Market Could Help Solve Industry’s Supply-Side Issues – The Hollywood Reporter

With Flood of New Projects, Berlin Market Could Help Solve Industry’s Supply-Side Issues – The Hollywood Reporter

After a few lean years, Berlin is ready to feast.

It is European film market kicks off Thursday, February 16 with hundreds of finished films and dozens of new packages and projects to suit every cinematic taste and budget. Even though vendors are still setting up their stalls at the EFM Martin Gropius Bau headquarters, the new packages keep coming in fast.

Black bear Internationalwho helped secure a deal with Lionsgate (for the domestic market) and Amazon (for multiple international territories) for Guy Ritchie’s WWII actor The unkind War Department on the eve of Berlin, added the musical project buzzy Fred & Ginger, about Hollywood dance legends Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, played by Jamie Bell and Margaret Qualley, to its EFM roster. Black Bear will handle international sales for the project, previously at Amazon, with UTA Independent Film Group and 30WEST co-representing the United States.

UTA and Mister Smith Entertainment have teamed up on the tantalizing thriller project Wichita Bookwith Phoebe Dynevor (Bridgerton, Fair play), which will launch pre-sales in Berlin, and Mister Smith will also present the crime novel LA noir directed by David M. Rosenthal The slap with the impressive cast of Casey Affleck, Alan Arkin, Teyana Taylor, Kathy Bates and Isabel May.

International sales company The Veterans and CAA Media Finance presented Boata sequel to hit Gerard Butler’s vehicle Plane just outside Berlin, with Luke Cage actor Mike Colter starring. Highland Film Group has thrilled sci-fi fans with the launch of a space thriller The astronautwith Emma Roberts and Laurence Fishburne of The purge producer Brad Fuller, with CAA and UTA Independent Film Group co-representing domestic rights.

Archstone Entertainment has an adult comedy from Luke Hemsworth, The greatest surf movie in the universe; The Exchange a psychological thriller The cup, with Orlando Bloom in the role of a boxer who exceeds the limits; XYZ Films an action thriller crowned by Kiefer Sutherland winter kills. And so on.

In total, there will be around 700 films screened at the EFM this year, according to market manager Dennis Ruh who notes that the industry will be back in full force in Berlin. “In terms of attendance levels, we expect to be back to where we were in 2019 or 2020,” he says.

The last two EFMs, on the other hand, were relatively meager affairs. And not just because COVID rules meant they were entirely virtual. There were far fewer projects on offer, as independent producers and financiers struggled to get films made. New travel and filming restrictions, a lack of proper COVID insurance, and general uncertainty about the future of the theatrical market have turned the usual flood of new projects in Berlin into a trickle.

There was still money to be made. Last year, Sony won a bidding war to pre-purchase Tom Hanks star A man called Ottopaying $60 million for worldwide rights to the comedy-drama, a remake of the 2015 Swedish hit A man called Ove – but for the most part it was slim pickings.

“In general, a film market [is] judged primarily on the sheer volume of content for sale, and only secondarily on those few big packages that seem to generate excitement and drive bidding wars,” says Alison Thompson, co-president of Cornerstone Films.

Berlin 2023 should be different.

The volume and variety of films on offer at the EFM — a ballerina-themed action film with OBTAINEDby Lena Headey of The Veterans and CAA; a high profile horror film about an indian teenager from To go out producer QC Entertainment and sales group Protagonist; the new Korean auteur drama Hirokazu Kore-eda (Broker, Shoplifters), which Gaga and Wild Bunch sell; star-driven action vehicles featuring Liam Neeson and Christoph Waltz – should ensure there really is something for everyone. And while quantity is no guarantee of quality, after years of being starved of films during COVID, independent distributors will be hungry and eager to fill their slates. Few will return home unsatisfied.

Variety is exactly what the post-COVID box office needs. There are signs of theatrical green shoots everywhere – the US box office for January is up more than 50% from the same month last year; Spring Festival’s Chinese box office surpassed $1 billion, making it the second highest-grossing to date; Japanese cinemas ended 2022 with an estimated gross of $1.52 billion, just 9.4% below the country’s pre-pandemic average. But, so far, the box office rebound has been too dependent on a small group of Hollywood blockbusters – mainly Avatar: The Way of the Water And Top Gun: Maverick – alongside a handful of local tentpoles, such as Japanese anime One Piece: Film Rouge and Shah Rukh Khan’s Indian action film Pathane.

A healthy cinema market, however, relies on a steady supply of medium-sized hits, which can only be accompanied by an increase in releases. In the 10 years before the COVID shutdown, from 2010 to 2019, more than 2,300 films were released theatrically on average per year in the United States. Over the past three years, those numbers were 881,986 and last year 1,158, still just over half the number seen before the pandemic. If the film industry really wants to turn the page, it needs more volume, more second and third tier films packaged, sold and released.

“That’s what you need for a really good, vibrant, healthy film market,” notes Thompson. “A lot of very different films for the business that sits just below the flashy lights industry, the busy, industrious independent film industry a little further down the food chain that just continues.”

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