Film industry de-stresses at Cannes

Scandalous parties, power blackouts, postponed screenings, worker protests, controversial content – this year's Cannes film festival has offered more drama off-screen than in its glittering cinema halls.

Yet, as the 12-day film festival comes to a close tomorrow, such trivial matters can be easily overlooked when major players of the independent film industry reveal 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 theatres, 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 this year fallen 15 per cent to 20 per cent 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.

"There is starting to be more capital coming into the market," says Mark Gill, Chief Executive of Los Angeles-based independent moviemaker The Film Department.

Low-budget B and C movies like Hitler Goes Kaput! compete for buyers against A titles such as Nine, a musical made by Harvey Weinstein's The Weinsten Co, starring Oscar winners Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Nicole Kidman.

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

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

Buyers and sellers agree that how much the recession has impacted the film market depends on what countries and companies one is talking about. For instance, last year at the Cannes' market, Russians were active in acquiring film rights as their overall economy boomed, but troubled times in Russia have dimmed the prospects for companies doing business there.

Yet in Germany, conservative posturing has led to more stability this year among movie and TV companies so German players are active, says Steve Bickel, who heads sales for The Film Department.

Still, all is not sunshine on the French Riviera.

In recent years, easy money fuelled an oversupply of films looking for distributors and meant buyers could easily pay for movies and soak up excess supply. Those days are gone. The global recession has curtailed TV advertising, meaning broadcasters can no longer pay ever-higher prices to license movies for screening in their home territories.

Lower DVD revenues – in the United States alone – has meant companies can no longer rely on home video to boost profits. Yet, producers said they have responded by cutting costs, and business plans have readjusted to the recession.

Jonathan Wolf, Executive Vice-President of the trade group Independent Film and Television Alliance, says the movie glut should ease in about six months as current titles work their way through the system and fewer new movies get made.

Finally, new businesses like TV video-on-demand, web downloads and video on mobile phones are beginning to take hold with consumers and generate real revenue.


The a-list celebrities

Brangelina

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie walked the red carpet for the premiere of Brad's film, Inglorious B*******.

Angelina looked stunning in her Versace Atelier gown and put to rest any rumours of her being pregnant yet again.

Also, the couple's public display of affection reassured fans there were no immediate plans to break up.

Robert Pattinson

The Twilight actor (pictured) drove female fans crazy as he posed for cameras at Cannes. But many were disappointed as they were unable to bid for the man's kisses, which were auctioned off for Aids charity, amFAR. Brad Pitt beware.

Penélope Cruz

The Spanish star missed her initial turn in the spotlight at Cannes due to food poisoning. But the Academy Award-winner managed to make it to the premiere of her Pedro Almodovar-directed film, Broken Embraces.

Other notable stars

A stunning Eva Longoria Parker in a Versace Ateleir; actress Marion Cotillard stealing the show at amFar. 


UAE presence at Cannes

Dubai

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) made a splash at Cannes this year, taking with it the successful projects from its Dubai Film Connection (DFC) co-production market, launched in 2007 to raise the visibility of Arab filmmakers and stimulate the growth of films in the region.

Shivani Pandya, Managing Director of DIFF, said: "It gives us great pleasure to announce that Amreeka, by Cherien Dabis and Christina Piovesan, has been selected for the prestigious Quinzaine des Realisateurs (The Directors' Fortnight: Parallel to the official selection of Cannes)." Other projects include Everyday is a Holiday by Dima El Horr, Oblivion by Atef Hetata and Faouzi Bensaidi's Death for Sale.

Abu Dhabi

The capital's film fund, created by Imagenation and Participant Media, announced its partnership at Cannes in the productions of Furry Vengeance and The Crazies.

Furry Vengeance is a family comedy starring Brendan Fraser. He plays a man who uproots his family from the big city to launch a new housing subdivision in the Oregon wilderness. There he encounters a group of protesters who don't want their homes disturbed.

The Crazies is a horror/thriller, inspired by George Romero's 1974 cult classic of the same name, in which the inhabitants of a small Iowa town start dying after a toxin contaminates their water. The film stars Timothy Olyphant (pictured) and Radha Mitchell.


Behind-the-scenes gossip

Decadence Galore

Spotted parading around La Croisette, the main seafront road in Cannes, were Z-list stars, engaging in brawls and various states of undress. The nightly yacht parties are worse, with many festival-goers believing the name of the prestigious Cannes has hit an all-time low.

L'Oreal makes up for starry cat-fight

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, make-up brand L'Oreal's international face, allegedly saw red when she learnt that up-and-coming actress Sonam Kapoor would also walk the red carpet at Cannes this year to promote the brand.

According to sources, Sonam's contract states that she will only feature as the Indian face of the brand.

The company finally released a statement, saying: "It was the company's decision not to send Sonam to Cannes. There would be a lot more chances for Sonam to attend Film Festivals in Europe." Meow.

EGG on her face

Good ole' Paris Hilton has done it again. When the socialite hit Cannes last weekend, her reps were sent around to stir up cash by asking event co-ordinators to cough up $100,000 (Dh367,250) for appearance money. Needless to say, Paris was left with egg on her face when everyone turned down this 'generous' offer. Left with no choice, she partied for free.

Booed off stage

Danish film director Lars von Trier (pictured) created controversy with his Antichrist. The film, which includes disturbing images of graphic violence and mutilation, created uproar at its press screening with many booing von Trier off stage and staging a walkout.

Off the wagon

Recent rehab graduate Tara Reid shocked everyone when she was caught on camera partying hard at Cannes.

But what was more surprising was that someone invited the Z-lister in the first place.


Bollywood sizzles at Cannes

Mr and Mrs Bachchan

Golden couple, Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, never miss an opportunity to strut out on the red carpet, holding each other in death grips and looking dewy eyed.

For once, Aishwarya silenced critics over her lack of style when she appeared in a stunning Roberto Cavalli train gown, followed by a pale blue Elie Saab ensemble.

But the couple skipped town after two appearances to head back to Mumbai for the Indian election results. Awww.

Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori

The controversial couple (pictured) and co-stars in the upcoming Kites, took to the red carpet to promote their film. Hrithik had his arm draped around Mexican stunner Barbara, with dad Rakesh Roshan walking behind. And before you ask, Hrithik's wife was missing in action.

Sharmila Tagore

The 52-year-old actress and head of the Indian Central Board of Film Certification served as a member of Cannes' international jury this year.

Actor-son Saif Ali Khan and future daughter-in-law, Kareena Kapoor, were also set to attend Cannes for the latter's film, Kambakkht Ishq, but the screening was cancelled.

Blink-and-Miss

Entrepreneur Vijay Mallya hosted a private island party with actor Arjun Rampal, a hairy Manisha Koirala (no wonder no one wants her in their films) and director Subhash Ghai in attendance.

Missing were Preity Zinta and Karan Johar, who are busy at the Indian Premiere League cricket in South Africa.

 

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