Cannes film market enthusiasm tempered by caution

Tue May 18, 2010 6:36am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

CANNES, France (Reuters) - As the Cannes film festival entered its second half on Tuesday, players in the market for buying and selling movies looked ahead with cautious optimism that tough times may be near an end.

The forecast for brighter skies in this French Riviera town was underpinned by a strong global box office and feelings that players were back to basics in the independent film business.

But industry experts said there are clouds that could further dampen the outlook after roughly two years. Among those shadowy specters are lower DVD and television revenues, lack of funds for film production and jittery financial markets.

"There's a feeling better times are ahead, but everyone is cautious -- very, very cautious." said Michael Barker, co-chief of Sony Pictures Classics, the specialty film label of major studio Sony Pictures Entertainment.

His comments were echoed by Jonathan Wolf, executive vice president of the U.S.-based Independent Film & Television Alliance, which runs the American Film Market. He used the term "tempered optimism" to describe the outlook.

The Cannes film festival is known for bringing together top directors like Oliver Stone and actors such as Russell Crowe in a gathering that celebrates what is new and fresh in cinema.

But in trade show booths and hotel rooms here, companies in the Cannes film market buy and sell rights to distribute titles such as "Hard Breakers" or "From Mexico with Love" that, for the most part, play only in art houses, on DVD or television.

Those companies fell on hard times starting in 2008 as easy money from private equity led to buyers overpaying for movies and suppliers creating a glut of titles.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Faith Wladyka poses during a photocall for the film "Blue Valentine", by director Derek Cianfrance, at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival May 18, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann</p>