Film business stress eases slightly at Cannes

Tue May 19, 2009 11:37am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Major players of the independent film industry gathered here for the giant Cannes film festival say they are starting to see a bottom to their recession-weary market that foretells better times ahead.

The Cannes film market is a massive event for buying and selling rights to show movies in theaters, on TV and in other media around the world. Each year, executives gather here to haggle over film prices that, due to the recession and other factors, have fallen 15 percent to 20 percent from last year.

But company chiefs are now seeing a glut of indie movies slowly ending, funding for media companies freeing up and business plans being scaled back to the point where bigger profits -- or at least fewer losses -- loom ahead for makers and distributors of quality movies with big-name stars.

"What you see is there is starting to be more capital coming into the market," said Mark Gill, chief executive of Los Angeles-based independent movie maker The Film Department.

While movie fans follow Penelope Cruz or Brad Pitt walking up Cannes' glamorous red carpet for premieres, industry chiefs follow business deals made at Cannes' movie market.

In the commercial arena, low-budget "B" and "C" movies like "Hitler goes Kaput!" compete for buyers against "A" titles such as the upcoming musical "Nine," made by Harvey Weinstein's The Weinsten Co., starring Cruz and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard.

Well-funded producers with "A" titles are finding ready buyers, the experts said, but companies with "B" titles and poor business plans that thrived in good times because easy money flowed in from Wall Street may soon be out of business.

"Where you have those ("A" movies), business is as buoyant as ever. Deals are a little tougher to get made, and there is pressure on pricing. But the truth is the right movie still fetches the same and, in some cases, actually more," said Joe Drake, president of the motion picture group for independent film company Lionsgate.   Continued...

<p>A Palme d'Or symbol is seen on the eve of the opening of the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler</p>