The sun is shining on the Croisette but it’s still raining distribution deals at Cannes, where Netflix has once again asserted its dominance with a $20 million deal for worldwide rights to BUBBLES, a stop-motion animated movie about Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee that was co-directed by Taika Waititi.
Distributors flood Cannes each year looking to acquire festival and market titles, or announce acquisitions that have been in the works for weeks, but benefit from the international spotlight that Cannes provides, given the global press corp that attends.
CAA orchestrated the blockbuster deal for Bubbles, which led to even more people talking about Netflix. The streaming service has been on the tips of tongues all over Cannes, where Netflix has drawn criticism from some corners because its competition titles Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories won’t debut in French theaters.
Ever-hungry for content to satiate its 94 million subscribers worldwide, Netflix continues to be aggressive at festivals, and it’s coming off a bountiful Sundance where the company picked up Dee Rees’ awards hopeful Mudbound, the buzzed-about The Incredible Jessica Jones, and the intriguing documentary Icarus.
Before Netflix and Amazon became the belles of the festival balls, it used to be companies like Fox Searchlight, Focus Features and the Weinstein Company, all of which have been active in the weeks leading up to Cannes and will have a presence at the festival.
Prior to Cannes, Focus picked up Jason Reitman’s TULLY starring Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis, while the Weinstein Company jumped back into business with Michael Moore on FAHRENHEIT 11/9, which examines Donald Trump and the 2016 election.
Once the festival started, Fox Searchlight wasted no time in picking up David Lowery’s Old Man and the Gun, which just wrapped production in Cincinnati. Robert Redford stars as thief alongside fellow Oscar winners Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek.
Not to be outdone, Lionsgate doubled down on its Hacksaw Ridge duo of Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn by purchasing U.S. rights to the thriller DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE from writer-director S. Craig Zahler. WME and CAA were both involved in this deal, same as Old Man and the Gun.
Gibson and Vaughn will play two cops who descend into the criminal underworld after they’re suspended for roughing up a suspect — an incident that was captured on video and leaked to the media. That’s certainly a timely premise, and with the right execution, the film could wind up being a modest hit for Lionsgate.
Meanwhile, “new kid on the block” Neon (run by distribution veterans Tom Quinn and Tim League) teamed with Vice to pre-buy U.S. rights to Harmony Korine’s comedy THE BEACH BUM, which stars Matthew McConaughey as a lovable rogue. The film will serve as Korine’s follow-up to Spring Breakers and it could be a smart acquisition for Neon, which scored a hit in its first time at bat with the recent Anne Hathaway movie Colossal. Production will start this fall in advance of a 2018 release. CAA was behind this deal too, as the agency isn’t letting Micah Green’s pre-Cannes departure slow its momentum at the festival.
Elsewhere, Amazon Studios has partnered with Megan Ellison’s company Annapurna to jointly release Mike White’s comedy BRAD’S STATUS, which stars Ben Stiller as a father escorting his teenage son on a tour of East Coast colleges. Annapurna just got into the distribution business and Brad’s Status will be the company’s second release on Sept. 15 following the Aug. 4 debut of Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit.
Finally, Sony Pictures Classics bought Stanley Tucci’s drama FINAL PORTRAIT, the story of the touching and offbeat friendship between American writer and art-lover James Lord (Armie Hammer) and Swiss painter Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), while Saban Films picked up the action thriller 24 HOURS TO LIVE, which stars Ethan Hawke as a career assassin who turns rogue after his latest mission goes awry. CAA negotiated both domestic distribution deals.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief