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EFM 2023: Optimism is fuelled by optimism and broad attendance

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Source: EFM/Juliane Eirich


A handful of eye-catching deals on heavyweight packages have fuelled an optimistic return to the European Film Market.

Prime Video has snapped up international rights to AGC Studios’ Justin Kurtzel’s white supremacist thriller The Order starring Jude Law and Nicholas Hoult, and AGBO’s Zoe Saldana action-survival thriller The Bluff sold by Rocket Science.

Black Bear International reported strong pre-sales on serial killer thriller Longlegs, with Neon circling, as well as musical Fred & Ginger, while buyers were warming to Capstone’s Liam Neeson thriller The Riker’s Ghost.

Voltage hosted a popular presentation of its YA slate and launched sales on Milli Vanilli biopic Girl You Know It’s True, Fifth Season is setting up screenings in the US for Berlinale special screening Superpower, and buyers reportedly liked Tina Satter’s Panorama title Reality starring Sydney Sweeney.

European and German acquisitions teams in particular were out in force, alongside a notable Latin American contingent, many of whom travelled to the AFM in Santa Monica last winter. There was also a significant presence from Korea, and sometimes Japan. Serious talks with Chinese and Hong Kong buyers will get underway at Filmart next month.

Protagonist Pictures’ George Hamilton reported “lots of activity, and such a spread of buyers”. The chief commercial officer said, “We’ve had great action from Asia, and that has been cool.” Despite the pandemic, we didn’t see much action from some territories in south east Asia. This is a welcome return. There’s a good showing from Indonesia, South Korea, India.”

Protagonist screened the market premiere of It Lives Inside ahead of its world premiere at SXSW. Neon owns US rights. Hamilton said that Hamilton had attended two screenings, and both were well-attended. “It’s been amazing, especially when you have something such as a horror movie, to show it together in a community setting on a big screen.”

“CIS has been very competitive. Italy and Spain were more selective than other markets due to tricky theatrical box office results and a decline in pay-TV sales,” said Asia Muci, head international distribution at Signature Entertainment.

High prices

Overall buyers reported high prices and said it was difficult to bid on certain titles as sales agents preferred to hold out for worldwide deals with streamers. Yet the mood overall was optimistic.

“Buyers were very happy to be back,” said Arclight Films president of worldwide sales Pia Patatian, who introduced sales on John Curran’s psychological thriller Mercy Road and Sundance indie Fairyland. Patatian has scheduled follow-up meetings with buyers in the coming weeks, reflecting the more languid pace of deal-making since the start of the pandemic ushered in virtual markets.

“Buyers said there was a lot of product and people came for shorter time, having started meetings online in the previous weeks and closed a lot of deals early,” added Signature’s Muci.

Cleo verger, the head of sales at Dogwoof, pointed out that there is a clear divide between non-fiction buyers from the US and international. She stated that the international buyers of theatrical docs were more proactive than the American theatrical buyers. “We are aware of Sundance docs which have not yet been distributed in the USA, but have been distributed in many other countries, which indicates a more international market than the US.”

Leo Teste, Film Constellation’s director of sales and distribution, said, “It’s been an amazing return to the joy in watching films, and it has been great to watch them perform in their respective categories.” “All territories are feeling optimistic as the box office seems to be recovering worldwide. Independent success at the box-office over the past few months has set everyone up to a positive EFM. We’ve seen great engagement from European buyers for both completed and pre-buy titles, and also interesting to see the Korean market appears to be picking up strongly amongst other Asian territories.

“Out of the last three physical post-pandemic markets, Cannes, AFM and Berlin, this is the strongest in terms of commercial outcome,” said UK-based Reason8 Films director and co-founder Anna Krupnova. “Germany is still the strongest territory at Berlin. It’s our home territory. We are proud to be [horror, thriller]. France, South Korea, Japan, and Latin America have all been great. I wasn’t expecting Latin Americans to be as proactive because they were present at the AFM and because of travel restrictions and costs, but I have met many and done deals here.”

Paul Ridd is head of acquisitions at Picturehouse Entertainment. It’s been great to see a lot of interesting promos and get to read some great scripts. I believe there is a great year ahead of both debut and established filmmakers. In terms of completed films showing here, there hasn’t been a great amount of stuff in selection that has piqued our interest for distribution, although I am sure there are a few gems left to see.”

Additional reporting by Ben Dalton

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