* Fewer Hollywood titles, but 5,000 films in Cannes market
* Diversity is still there, market head Paillard says
* Markets "make flow of business happen" -producer
By Michael Roddy
CANNES, France, May 24 While attention in Cannes
is focused on film premieres and stars on the red carpet, movie
sales and deals struck by high rollers and bit players are what
keep the Mediterranean seaside town awash in money.
Eighteen film titles ranging from 83-year-old French
director Jean-Luc Godard's "Adieu au Langage" (Goodbye to
Language) to 25-year-old Canadian director Xavier Dolan's
"Mommy" are competing for the top Palme d'Or prize that will be
announced on Saturday night.
But that is just a drop in the bucket compared to what
festival officials estimate are some 5,000 films shown here, in
complete form or as trailers, to potential buyers or investors.
There were fewer big-budget Hollywood titles in the Cannes
market this year, but Jerome Paillard, chief executive of the
Marche du Film (Film Market), sees that as cyclical.
"It's not necessarily a short-term threat because most of
the business we do isn't on those sorts of films," Paillard told
Reuters in an interview.
"You know we have 5,000 titles in the market and this
doesn't change. The diversity of Cannes is still there."
It's enough to attract big names, like veteran producer
Harvey Weinstein, and newcomers like media mogul Haim Saban.
The Weinstein Co announced it had bought the U.S.
distribution rights to the musical film "Sing Street" set in
Dublin during the 1980s, with a soundtrack from U2's Bono and
the Edge, for what trade publications said was $3 million.
It also struck a deal with producers Emile Sherman and Iain
Canning, who were behind the global hit "The King's Speech", for
worldwide rights to "Lion" about a five-year-old Indian boy who
takes the wrong train and is separated from his family for
decades, for a reported $12 million.
Saban, a media mogul who heads up the largest American
Spanish-language broadcaster, Univision, announced the first big
deal for his new Saban Films, purchasing North American rights
to Tommy Lee Jones's frontier drama "The Homesman".
With deals like those and others, it wasn't so much a
question of quantity as of quality, David Glasser, chief
operating officer of The Weinstein Company, told Reuters.
"For The Weinstein Company I think we had an extremely
fruitful and well-represented film festival," he said.
"If we're not making it, the stuff we're buying needs to
look and feel and smell like a Weinstein movie and we're seeing
a lot of product out there. So maybe the volume of numbers may
be different this year but I think the quality is up."
GOOD FOR PRODUCERS
The market also appeared to have worked for at least some of
the independent producers who Paillard says have become among
the most influential forces in the Cannes marketplace.
"This year we have about 5,000 producers, they are really
coming to Cannes to find partners, to find co-financiers,
co-producers, to find new opportunities and that works, that
shows the face of the market we're in," Paillard said.
John Foster, President and CEO of Texas-based Odyssey
Pictures Corporation, grumbled at the beginning of the market
last week that attendance looked sparse, in part because of a
French pilots' strike, but by the end he had changed his tune.
"There was still some good networking, good meetings and
good activity," Foster said.
He said his company had struck a deal for North American
distribution for a U.S. film, the name of which he said he could
not divulge because details remained to be worked out, and he
made some contacts for movies he is producing.
"The independent markets are very important for the economy
of the modest budget-to-low budget films; that's what makes kind
of the flow of the business happen," he said.
It worked also for Julian Richards, producer and director
with London-based Jinga films, who said that one of his best
titles at Cannes had been the modest-budget Irish-made horror
film "The Canal".
It is films like "The Canal", with small budgets and no
big-name stars, that Richards said work best in a global market
where rights to a country like Malaysia might only net $30,000.
"It's not a sustainable business, though occasionally
there's that film that goes through the roof."
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)