Yes the above title is a reference to my favorite Baz Luhrman film.  The fact is that The Cannes Film Festival is truly in its own class. For domestic distribution, it is arguably the best launch pad for foreign language films and can be a high profile place to premiere English language movies too. The problem is that many of the American films are star driven, have large budgets by indie standards and/or have distribution secured before arriving. If your American film isn’t a massive media machine, you will not be premiering at Cannes and honestly you wouldn’t want to.

Cannes signs

In looking at how the films from Cannes 2012 festival have performed, one has to note that over 60% of the films acquired for US came from 5 distribution companies (and their subsidiaries). TWC, SPC, IFC, Strand Releasing, and Film Movement dominated the acquisitions zone.

Moonrise Kingdom (Focus, worldwide gross $68, 263, 166), Lawless (TWC, worldwide gross $53, 676, 580), and Killing Them Softly (TWC, worldwide gross $37, 930, 465) all had distribution deals attached when they premiered. All are three of the highest grossing independent films from 2012, but only Moonrise Kingdom could be classified as a hit. In fact Killing Them Softly is arguably a massive failure, failing to recoup its budget in its US theatrical and getting a rare F Cinemascore. TWC’s pick up from Cannes 2012, The Sapphires, has been a modest performer in its 8 weeks of theatrical release so far this year grossing just over $2 mil.

Sony Picture Classics (SPC) has long been a dominant distributor of high art foreign films and they acquired Amour, No, and Rust and Bone. All the films grossed $2,000,000 + in the US however the titles are a mixed bag. Amour grossed less than prior year’s foreign language Oscar entry, but still was a $6 mil plus performer stateside. Rust and Bone failed to get an acting nomination for Marion Cotillard and ended its domestic run with $2,062,027. Internationally, Rust and Bone slightly outperformed Amour, but both had international grosses of around $20 mil. Only No exceeded expectations. Though it has done less than ¼ of what Rust and Bone has internationally, it has actually out grossed it here in the US and it’s still playing in theaters! It’s a rare box office success for a Director’s Fortnight selection. That said, all three are the three highest grossing foreign language films acquired out of Cannes. If you’re foreign, GO FOR SPC! GO FOR SPC! GO FOR SPC! I repeat GO FOR SPC!

IFC/IFC Midnight/Sundance Selects combined for a whopping 10 acquisitions! That’s more than many companies release in a year! They chose not to report grosses though for Antiviral and The Taste of Money which is an alarming sign, even for their VOD business model. Clandestine Childhood failed to gross $10k and none of their films managed over $1,000,000. Their highest grosser (On The Road) has leveled off at over $720k so far, but was not day and date VOD and considering the film played in as many as 107 theaters in a given week, it is clearly a disappointing performer. The Ken Burns directed,The Central Park Five managed just under ½ that with $325k and surprisingly missed the Oscar documentary short list. It will likely have a long life on other platforms. Someone in Love, The Angels Share and Beyond the Hills all grossed over $100k, but only The Angels Share (conveniently in English) could be considered a modest hit as it just crept past $250k. Sightseers was released a week and a half ago and does not look likely to pass $50k. The horror remake Maniac comes out later this year.

Behind IFC is Strand Releasing who acquired 6 films! Though Strand has been around for 20 years+ this is an unprecedented amount. In The Fog, Polluting Paradise, and Mekong Hotel have yet to be released. White Elephant failed to break $10k, and Post Tenebras Lux and Paradise: Love are still in the early stages of release with neither likely passing $50k domestically.

Other low end performers include Cinema Guild’s Night Across the Street with $13,035 domestically and Well Go USA’s Dangerous Liaisons which has reported $54,000 in box office. Both films were in the Director’s Fortnight which often gets overshadowed by the main competition. Think of it as the difference between being in the Next section and the US Dramatic section at Sundance.

Performing on the low end of the main competition films is Oscilloscope’s Reality which has yet to break six figures. The director’s prior film, Gomorrah, grossed over $1.5 mil in the US.

Performing better was Holy Motors handled by the now defunct distribution division of Indomina. It grossed $641,000 despite being literally impossible to describe. However, that is less than half the gross of Samuel Goldwyn’s Renoir which is still averaging over $100,000 a weekend. Despite never playing in more than 100 theaters, this film  has quietly amassed a total of $1,484,197, making it the highest grossing film from Un Certain Regard’s program last year. It has also done more than double the box office of Entertainment One’s Cosmopolis and Lee Daniels surprise awards contender The Paperboy. Both films suffered from mediocre reviews and the fact that Zach Efron and Robert Pattinson’s fanbase can’t legally see an R Rated film by themselves.

Films yet to be released include four Film Movement acquisitions (Three Worlds, Alyah, Broken, and La Sirga), Breaking Glass has Laurence Anyways which is easily its biggest acquisition to date, Magnolia has best actor winner The Hunt, and Gkids took the animated Ernest and Celestine.

Now all of this brings me to Mud. The Matthew McConaughey and and Reese Witherspoon starrer has been something of a breakout and looks poised to pass $20 mil by the end of its theatrical run.  It has grossed over $2,000,000 for four weekends in a row now and has yet to play on over 1,000 screens. This film did not win any awards at the festival and in fact left the festival without US distribution. It did not get a pick up until August 2012 and was introduced to US audiences at the Sundance Film Festival 2013. With an A list cast, strong reviews and a distributor (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions) who knows exactly how to handle this kind of film, it did finally find its way. Its international grosses are just barely over $3 mil, but that’s only from two territories.

Less than half of the films from the Critic’s Week, Un Certain Regard, and Director’s Fortnight have received distribution in the US. Many never will. All but one of the Competition films has yet to find one which helps pad the totals. If you have a foreign film, this is arguably your best bet to launch for a Stateside distribution deal. If you’ have an American film, it can provide great publicity, but create bad press to last a lifetime leading up to your release. American bigger budget indie tent poles will continue to use TIFF and Cannes to launch, but for every Moonrise Kingdom or Silver Linings Playbook,  there are easily 3x as many Killing Them Softly’s. The Cannes endorsement on a foreign film especially though can drive up arthouse audiences in digital environments and older audiences at this thing called a video store. A few even still exist.

A look back at last year’s Cannes titles:

Film Distributor Gross Program Section
Post Tenesbras Lux Strand Releasing $7,096 Competition
Clandestine Childhood IFC $9,017 Director’s Fortnight
White Elephant Strand Releasing $9,673 Un Certain Regard
Night Across the Street Cinema Guild $13,035 Director’s Fortnight
Augustine Music Box Films $13,616 Critic’s Week
Paradise: Love Strand Releasing $17,356 Competition
Sightseers IFC $19,037 Director’s Fortnight
In Another Country Kino Lorber $25,079 Competition
The We and the I Paladin $42,172 Director’s Fortnight
Dangerous Liaisons Well Go USA $54,000 Director’s Fortnight
Reality Oscilloscope $72,577 Competition
Beyond the Hills Sundance Selects $110,490 Competition
Like Someone In Love IFC $222,695 Competition
The Angels Share IFC $248,567 Competition
The Central Park Five Sundance Selects $325,653 Special Screening
Holy Motors Indomina $641,000 Competition
The Paperboy Millenium Entertainment $693,286 Competition
On The Road IFC Films/Sundance Selects $720,828 Competition
Cosmopolis Entertainment One $763,556 Competition
Renoir Samuel Goldwyn $1,079,000 Un Certain Regard
The Sapphires TWC $2,015,509 Midnight
Rust and Bone SPC $2,060,565 Competition
No SPC $2,163,379 Director’s Fortnight
Amour SPC $6,732,661 Competition
Mud Roadside Attractions $11,656,971 Competition
Killing Them Softly TWC $15,026,056 Competition
Lawless TWC $37,400,127 Competition
Moonrise Kingdom Focus Features $45,512,466 Competition
Antiviral IFC Midnight BO NOT Reported Un Certain Regard
Trashed Blenheim Films BO NOT Reported Special Screening
The Taste of Money IFC Midnight BO NOT Reported Competition
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet! Kino Lorber Competition
Maniac IFC Midnight Midnight
Laurance Anyways Breaking Glass Un Certain Regard
The Hunt Magnolia Competition
Thérèse Desqueyroux MPI Pictures Out of Competition
In the Fog Strand Releasing Competition
La Sirga Film Movement Director’s Fortnight
Mekong Hotel Strand Releasing Special Screening
Polluting Paradise Strand Releasing Special Screening
Ernest and Celestine Gkids Director’s Fortnight
Broken Film Movement Critic’s Week
Alyah Film Movement Critic’s Week
Three Worlds Film Movement Un Certain Regard


May 23rd, 2013

Posted In: Distribution, Film Festivals, International Sales

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