After a 2021 banner for high-end genre films, industry veterans hope fantasy can resurrect the corpse of pre-COVID theatrical distribution.
As lightning reanimated the body of Frankenstein’s monster, Julia Ducournau’s ‘Titane’, which turned heads when it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and ‘Nanny’, winner of the Grand Jury of Sundance, a supernatural tale from director Nikyatu Jusu, have revitalized the festival scene.
While “Nanny” may have been the crown jewel of the genre at Sundance, the influence that genre cinema had on the first major festival of 2022 was wide and undeniable. Chloe Okuno’s psychological thriller “Watcher” impressed – stringing together several sales deals – as did Hanna Bergholm’s psychopathic horror feature “Hatching”, sold by Wild Bunch and the Spanish star sold by Charades “Piggy”, the sequel to Carlota Pereda’s 2019 Spanish Oscar winner “Cerdita”.
Among the genre titles in Berlin this year are Dario Argento’s serial killer thriller “Dark Glasses” in the Berlinale Special section, while Bertrand Bonello’s subconscious journey “Coma” and Peter Strickland’s bloody “Flux Gourmet” ( photo above) are listed in Encounters. In the Forum section, Max Linz’s ghostly “The State and Me” elicits laughter while the psychological drama “We Haven’t Lost Our Way” questions reality. And from Generation, the animated feature “Bubble” is set in a dystopian Tokyo.
Moving on to sales, several key genre titles at EFM saw movement even before this year’s market kicked off. After an excellent reception at Sundance and domestic IFC/Shudder deals, AGC Studios sold “Watcher” outside of North America to Focus Features. IFC and Shudder also nabbed Andrew Semans’ Sundance player “Resurrection,” and ahead of its Sundance Midnight screening, Chistian Tafdrup’s Danish thriller “Speak No Evil” was pre-purchased by streaming service AMC Networks.
Major genre titles set to move at this year’s EFM in Gerard Butler’s action sequel “Den of Thieves 2: Pantera,” picked up by Sierra/Affinity; Cornerstone’s supernatural horror “Starve Acre”; and “Morning” sold by HanWay Films by Justin Kurzel, with top talent in Laura Dern and Benedict Cumberbatch. Several thrillers also stand out, such as “Bad Genius”, sold by Patrick Wachsberger’s Picture Perfect Federation, and “I’ll Be Watching”, with “The 100” Leads Eliza Taylor and Bob Morley, sold by and Iuvit Media Sales. .
“The genre is more marketable, whereas the pre-purchase market for drama seems riskier,” said Gabrielle Stewart, general manager of HanWay Films. “To sell these films you often need solid reviews, festival accolades or awards, so there’s more risk, whereas with a high concept film with a good hook you can market it that way. way rather than relying on critical buzz.”
Martin Moszkowicz of Constantin added: “The big question for independent distributors is: are you going to get into smaller, niche films with very defined audiences and maximum budgets of $10-15 million that are hard to organize? ?”
Another trend recognized by many buyers attending this year’s EFM is a changing demographic among spectators. For years, debates have raged over how to entice young audiences to go to the cinema. It turns out, as any parent will attest, that all a child needs to want something is to be denied that thing.
“Young people want to come out and share a common experience after being locked up for so long,” Stewart said.
“Sellers and buyers are turning to action, horror and thrillers that can still both reliably attract box office audiences under 30 and generate downstream revenue,” said AGC President and CEO Stuart Ford.
As the theatrical cast’s vital signs continue to strengthen, perhaps the walking dead, serial killers, aliens, monsters and ghosts can bring the cinematic experience back to life.
“I don’t think anyone knows exactly what future audiences will look like, but while we have the attention of younger audiences, let’s try to explore what we can do with it,” Stewart summed up.