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in Filmmaking
on May 18, 2011

In America we’re used to seeing box-office results each Monday, but for American movies the sometimes more relevant figures — their foreign sales — are guarded trade secrets. Many producers, unable to get hard numbers for their comps, cling to outdated models and “percentage of the budget” charts when making business plans. That’s why the yearly feature by the French trade Ecran Total , published today here at Cannes, is so startling. By obtaining the contracts filed by French distributors at the public funding org, the CNC, the journal prints the acquisition prices of foreign films, taking the temperature of not only the French film business but also, by extension, the business of any producer seeking to recoup a portion of their budget out of France.

Ecran Total‘s chart is missing some key players. France’s largest buyer, Metropolitan, is not represented because their publicly filed contracts do not mention figures. Neither are Le Pacte and Wild Bunch. (The trade cites Metropolitan also as one of the buyers paying the highest minimum guarantees.) Still, the numbers are extremely useful. The number one film on the chart — meaning it was bought for the most money — is Anton Corbijn’s The American, which was sold by Focus Features to Mars for $3.57 million. (Box-office bumps allowed for a possible additional $500,000.) Number two was F. Gary Gray’s Law Abiding Citizen, which was sold to Euro TV for $2.3 million. (Note: most of these acquisitions include additional French-speaking territories.) John Wells’ The Company Men went for $1 million to Euro TV as well. John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole was sold by Odd Lot to Haut et Court for $700,000. Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg was sold by Focus to Mars Film for $500,000. Rodrigo Garcia’s Mother and Child went to Haut et Court and Belgium’s Cineart for $425,000. Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone was sold by Fortissimo to Pretty Pictures for 110,000 euros, with another 50,000 in possible box-office bumps.

Other American indies included Michael Cuesta’s Tell Tale, sold by Mirabelle Pictures to CTV for $100,000; Paul Solet’s Grace, from Lightning to Atypik Films for $100,000; Wristcutters: A Love Story was sold by Fabrication to Atypik for $15,000. The majority of these deals are all rights deals, and the article also cites box-office and number of prints. And, of course, these numbers are MGs, meaning that it’s possible that additional monies will have been returned based on box-office performance and ancillary sales.

License terms range from seven years to 25, with 15 being about the average. The highest non-American film on the list is Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe, sold by Westend Films to Diaphana for 750,000 British sterling. Diaphana also bought Lee Changdong’s Poetry for $150,000, while Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective was about by Zootrope Films for 30,000 euros.

I’ve given you the highlights, but for more, track down Ecran Total.

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