Following a fully online 2021 event, a hybrid 2022 and last year’s 2023 comeback edition that saw most European distributors still struggling to stay afloat in a barely post-pandemic world, this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris was a “typical” market. And in 2024, typical is great.
“We haven’t had a typical market in four years. Everyone was back,” enthused Gilles Renouard, head of cinema for Rendez-Vous organiser Unifrance.
“Buyers are definitely more future-oriented,” he continued. “Last year, they were scared to buy films for theatrical release, but now they are confident in films that can work in their territories and are looking to take action. For a few years, European distributors were shy. They were still buying, but at lower prices, We’re back to pricing that is nearly pre-Covid. Things are coming back slowly.”
Some sellers showcasing fresh titles confidently pronounced the return of theatrical. “Even for our films for Prime Video in France, distributors in other territories are still picking them up to release in cinemas. Movie theatres remain essential in most territories,” said Other Angle Pictures’ founder Olivier Albou.
But he added: “Pre-sales have become more and more difficult”- buyers want to see first images or footage before diving in based on script or cast.
And they want all rights. “Buyers are committed to buying for theatrical release, but they want to buy full rights only so that if they can’t fill cinemas, they can compensate,” said MPM Premium’s head of sales and acquisitions Quentin Worthington.
More talent-driven commercial packages are typically the focus at the Rendez-Vous, but following the success of Anatomy Of A Fall, buyers were on the look-out for arthouse titles more than ever. “Everyone is looking for little indie gems,” said Indie Sales’ senior sales and marketing executive Constance Poubelle.
The surprise success of Anatomy, is good for the whole industry, said Unifrance’s managing director Daniela Elstner. The Palme d’Or winner dominated the Lumiere Awards that closed the Rendez-Vous on January 22.
“This time last year, who could have predicted the Anatomy Of A Fall phenomenon? What’s great is that, in the beginning of the year, we don’t know what is coming and anything can happen.”
Newly appointed Unifrance president Gilles Pélisson added: “Everyone knows there will be less American films in 2024 [due to the Hollywood strikes], so that creates opportunity for European – and thus French – cinema.”
That said, the uncertain theatrical distribution landscape is affecting distributors. Renouard explained: “Buyers are taking longer to make decisions. There’s more uncertainty because distributors in Europe don’t know how the market will be impacted by a lack of US titles, so they’re all a bit more prudent.”
According to Unifrance, the most attended screening at the Rendez-Vous was SNDs Maurice Ravel biopic Boléro, directed by Anne Fontaine and starring Raphael Personnaz. It has been generating buzz ahead of its premiere at International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Limelight section this weekend.
But the most-attended screenings at the market were generally broad comedies, They included Fred Cavayé’s This Is The Goat! starring Dany Boon about a goat accused of murder in 17th Century France for Pathe, Florent Bernard’s family road trip tale Meet The Leroys starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and José Garcia, for Newen Connect and swinging couples story Maybe More, co-directed by Olivier Ducray and Wilfried Meance.
Genre and horror films were popular requests among buyers and, according to Charades co-founder Yohann Comte, “Buyers are looking for films geared toward younger audiences. Senior crowds aren’t going to the movies, so distributors are asking for films for that specific youth demographic.”Unifrance’s 26th annual Rendez-Vous in Paris was attended by 420 buyers from around 50 countries, as 50 French sales companies showcased their 2024 slates.
Over 1,000 accredited professionals attended the event that also included an audiovisual market and film and TV junkets, hosting some 130 European journalists.