All Eyes on Cannes After Strong Sales at EFM and Sundance

Audiences are slowly returning to theaters, and distributors must fill empty release slates hollowed out after the last four years of unprecedented production disruptions and dual strikes.

Stateside and European box offices increased slightly in 2023 from the previous year but nowhere near pre-lockdown levels. Also, while most streamers and studios have had to make deep cuts in the last 12 months, with more to follow, the appetite for film acquisitions is returning to independent markets.

Given the number and quality of projects at Sundance and the European Film Market (EFM) in Berlin, there is a feeling of cautious optimism going into Cannes next week.

Piggybacking Off Of Europe’s Creativity

A trend is reemerging heading into the Marché du Film: packaging and selling the remake rights of popular European films for English-language remakes.

This year’s Cannes will launch a new Cannes Remakes initiative focusing on remaking European films, with a focus on France, Italy, and Spain. This development is music to streamer service’s ears unable to produce original films that appeal to their subscribers, forcing them to pay hefty licensing fees to major studios for proven hits.

Many European films have spawned multiple remakes and adaptations in several languages, some of which have been remade more than twenty times in various territories. 

This initiative aims to expand the intellectual property market at Cannes, which serves as the most prominent showcase for Europe’s most marketable projects, and create a yearly platform where intellectual property owners can workshop and negotiate with producers and buyers to develop projects, particularly for English-speaking and European markets. 

Recent hits from Asia that US studios have adapted highlight a focus on producers looking elsewhere for content and original ideas that have flatlined in the US amid greater corporatization of filmmaking.

Also, returning from its inaugural introduction last year is the Spotlight on Asia session on May 18, to feature intellectual property owners from Japan, Taiwan, and elsewhere in Asia to connect with European and US producers.

The Cannes Film Market runs from May 14-22 alongside the film festival, which runs May 14-25. The Official Selection can be viewed here.

Uncover What Streamers in Europe and the US Pay to License Films and Series Content in Most Major Territories with Exclusive Distribution Intelligence from FilmTake.

Worldwide Film & Television Distribution Intelligence

Get unparalleled access to market intelligence reports that draw on financial data and insights from dozens of content distribution deals worldwide between key industry participants.

Film and Series distribution rates and terms deriving from dozens of agreements for rights to transmit films and episodic television via PayTV and SVOD.

Choose flexible options for single-user PDF downloads.

Licensing Terms & Included Programs:

Pay-1 & SVOD Rate Cards for Motion Pictures and Series Exhibited Worldwide in Multiple Availability Windows

  • Motion Pictures: Pay-1, First Run, Second Window Features, Recent Library Features (Tiers AAA,A,B,C), Library Features (Tiers AAA,A,B,C), Current and Premium Made-For-TV Films and Direct-To-Video Films, covering many license periods over the last decade
  • Episodic TV: Current, Premium, Premium Catalog (1HR & 1/2HR), Catalog Series (1HR & 1/2HR), and Catalog Miniseries + Case Studies on Current Mega Hit, Catalog Mega Hit, and Premium Catalog, covering many licensing terms from 2012-2024
  • Because most-favored-nation rates operate in practice, the rates and terms apply to a diverse range of content and distributors worldwide in multiple availability windows.

Deals at EFM and Sundance Leave Producers Optimistic

Government lockdowns shuttered cinemas around the world for the better part of a year in some territories. This, combined with dual strikes from the writers and actors, resulted in nightmare conditions for independent producers over the last few years. Many companies folded, and most cut staff amid a frozen sales environment. Seemingly, the strong survived and are praying for a return to pre-2020 conditions.

Releasing slates from studios and large distributors are threadbare after cost-cutting, as public and private investors flee the entertainment space after years of losing money and several notable fraud lawsuits associated with the slates of Warner Bros., Paramount, Sony, and MGM.

With fewer studio films available at EFM amid these across-the-board cutbacks and strike-related production delays, so many independent projects emerged to fill the gap.

Although the available films at Sundance had smaller budgets and little-known casts, the sales figures surprised most sales agents who expected a very soft buying environment. As usual, there were headline-grabbing deals from the big boys, including Netflix in a $17 million deal for “It’s What’s Inside,” Searchlight picked up “A Real Pain” for $10 million, and Amazon’s MGM acquired “My Old Ass” for $15 million.

Encouragingly, there were several mid-market deals from A24, Sony Pictures Classics, Focus, IFC, Magnolia, Vertical, Bleecker Street, and Neon in the $2 million to $4 million range, which are the lifeblood of the independent market.

Sales Agents and Distributors Strive for a Return to Normalcy

Since the end of strikes late last year, the independent market has shown signs of recovery, with a modest uptick at Sundance and EFM to start the year. Of course, most of this recovery is from the top end of the market, with projects handled by CAA Media Finance, 30West, and FilmNation.

With an ever-increasing appetite from streamers too cautious to greenlight internal projects with ballooning budgets, the big dollar independent market is in focus. International distributors at EFM and beyond are searching for the $25 million to $80 million studio-lite projects that will hopefully lure spurned audiences back to theaters or open the pocketbooks of streamers incapable of producing cinematic fare without spending over $100 million.

A week before EFM, Paramount concluded the biggest independent deal in recent years for North American rights for “Better Man” for $25 million, which includes a sizable theatrical commitment. However, given the woes inside the Paramount boardroom, the filmmakers shouldn’t hold their breath.

EFM featured a slew of A-list projects for the first time in years. Many industry pros claim the projects offered were more robust than any market over the last five years and on par with 2018, a high watermark for independent films. With fewer television projects being greenlit as peak television has crested, more top performers behind and in front of the camera are again available for films.

FilmTake Away: Cannes Will Set the Tone for the Independent Market

The most surprising development emerging from Sundance and EFM was the return of pre-sales in major territories after years of most distributors only considering finished or nearly finished projects.

More importantly, there is also a return to windowed releases, which maximize a film’s full value through theatrical and ancillary distribution instead of dumping projects onto streamers in worldwide distribution deals.

Uncover what streamers pay for films in multiple availability windows, from first-run, second window, through library titles.