It was an unusual years at Cannes that included two jewelry heists and a gunshot scare. This year the Best Director winner from 2011, Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), was booed at the screening for his new film Only God Forgives. This year, Keanu Reeves premiered his directorial debut to rave reviews. And this year proved to be one one of the the most marketable years for U.S. acquisitions at the festival.
The buying spree was led by IFC Pictures’ label Sundance Selects, Sony Picture Classics, and Entertainment One, who acquired distribution rights to Diana. But the busiest buyer of all was Harvey Weinstein, leaving Cannes with six films and snatching up another two for his multi-platform arm Radius-TWC. Radius picked up the aforementioned Keanu Reeve’s directed film Man of Tai Chi in addition to the FIPRESCI Prize winner Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin.
Weinstein kicked off the buying with $6.5 million for U.S., Canadian and Spanish rights to Stephen Frears’ Philomena starring Judi Dench. Weinstein made the deal after seeing only seven minutes of footage. It was during this screening that Entertainment One first viewed the Princess Diana biopic starring Naomi Watts.
The remaining films acquired by TWC include Todd Haynes’ upcoming Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Mia Wasikowska as lovers in the 1950s, The Young and Prodigious Spivet featuring Helena Bonham Carter, and Passengers, a sci-fi romance epic directed by Brian Kirk (Game of Thrones) and starring Reese Witherspoon. Additionally TWC teamed up with Relativity for Jane Got a Gun, the Natalie Portman Western.
In response to so many buyers acquiring early on, The Gersh Agency’s Jay Cohen writes,”Cannes was a strong market and titles were priced at the right levels.” Unlike Sundance or Toronto, Cannes does not cater to sales for U.S. territories. This upswing can be seen as a direct result to the positive response to the films themselves. However, with most of these films being slated for the release in 2014, audiences will have to wait to see if any of these deals will pay off.