Deal-making gains momentum at Cannes festival

Fri May 22, 2009 3:03am EDT
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By Steven Zeitchik

CANNES (Hollywood Reporter) - The Cannes Film Festival is winding to a weekend close just as film buzz and deals are ratcheting up.

Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" makes its long-awaited public debut here Friday night. Starring Johnny Depp and featuring Heath Ledger's last film role, the adventure fantasy is expected to generate strong media attention.

But the screening is not just another media opportunity. A strong reception for "Parnassus" could compel U.S. buyers, who thus far have stayed on the sidelines, to step up with a distribution deal for the film; a weaker reception might give them pause.

Other deals were coming together as the festival prepared to close this weekend.

Sony Pictures Classics acquired Jacques Audiard's "Un Prophete," a mob-prison drama that has been discussed as a possible Palme d'Or contender. The label beat out Oscilloscope and IFC for the movie in a deal representing SPC's third festival pickup, or half of its six-film tally from last year's festival.

It was a good day all around for the New York-based art-house label, which unspooled "The White Ribbon," Michael Haneke's German-language pre-World War I tale, to one of the most enthusiastic receptions of the festival. SPC executives, who are considering replacing the film's German voice-over narration with an English version, hope to use strong critical response to the artily composed black-and-white film to springboard a specialty run and a possible Oscar campaign.

With most of the big titles already having screened, it's unlikely that there will be any blockbuster deals besides one for "Parnassus," though the Rachel Weisz-toplined period drama "Agora" remains available and could fetch a deal in the coming days.

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

<p>Johnny Depp, Oscar nominee for best actor in "Sweeny Todd:The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," arrives at the 80th annual Academy Awards in Hollywood February 24, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>