Members of a heavyweight panel of U.S. players concurred that the Festival de Cannes is a not a good place to sell North American distribution rights and that Sundance and Toronto were the film festiv


CANNES (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Members of a heavyweight panel of U.S. players concurred that the Festival de Cannes is a not a good place to sell North American distribution rights and that Sundance and Toronto were the film festivals where most U.S. buyers made their purchases.

At a seminar May 16 at the American Pavilion, John Sloss of Cinetic Media said Cannes was a "very tough market" at which to sell U.S. distribution rights and called Sundance by contrast "a feeding frenzy." He added that for more than half the 40-odd titles he sells each year, deals are done outside festivals.

"There are films that are not in the festival that are being sold by sales agents that are selling very well, but in terms of the films here, even though I'm involved with a number of them, the buzz hasn't been that strong on the films here so far," Sloss said.

But Lions Gate International co-president Nick Meyer defended the fest, saying that sales to North American distributors represented "only about 10% of what the Cannes Film Festival is."

Publicist Mark Pogachefsky from mPRm asserted that Cannes was like "festival as bubble. ...It's such a hothouse atmosphere and the movies are like orchids, where if the wrong wind blows they shrivel and die."

Pogachefsky said Toronto is the most valuable festival for North American distributors to buy, but Sloss was having none of it.

"The problem with Toronto is that so many distributors are doing so many fall releases out of there -- it's such a cheap place to junket your film -- that they're distracted with the films they already have and are releasing," Sloss said. "They're not focused on buying in the same way they are at Sundance, which for some reason has developed into a rabid market. People come there to buy movies."

Focus Features' Glen Basner said his company was at all festivals to buy movies, and it's about the films that are in the fest lineup.

"We show up with the same number of people at Sundance as we do in Toronto, and we're out there seeing every single film at both," Basner said.

The excuse for the panel was to talk about how to create buzz for a project, yet not one panel member could point to a film that had done that at Cannes.

"I think that's the interesting point, actually," said Picturehouse's executive VP marketing Marian Koltai-Levine. "At this moment in time there hasn't been a big breakout scenario where there's a big bidding war."

Pogachefsky pointed out that often films sell weeks after the festival. Koltai-Levine agreed and said buyers preferred that, as they could sometimes get the films for less that way.

Panel members all agreed that creating buzz was about managing expectations and advised audience members not to overhype their films.

Said Sloss: "I used to say that the best circumstances anyone can see your film is to have the lowest expectations possible but still go to the screening."

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