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Entertainment Berlin: A Post-COVID Recovery Leads to Optimism as European Film Market Wraps

12:47  05 march  2021
12:47  05 march  2021 Source:   hollywoodreporter.com

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The 55th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has moved from early July, and will now take place Aug. 20-28, as the Czech Republic fights a surge in coronavirus infections. The festival was due to take place July 2-10, but the alarming COVID -19 situation has forced organizers to delay. The Czech Republic currently has the highest per capita infection rate in the world with more than 16,000 daily new infections for a population of 10.7 million. The nation is in a strict three-week lockdown that is enforced by police and military.

The Berlin International Film Festival has crowned winners from its youth-focused Generation and Shorts programs. In Generation Kplus, the Grand Prix for Best Film went to Han Shuai’s Summer Blur, with a special mention for Betania Cappato’s A School in Cerro Hueso. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, likely boosted by brutal winter storms in the densely populated South in mid-February, though the labor market outlook is improving amid declining new COVID -19 cases. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted

This year, more than most, Berlin’s European Film Market was an opportunity to gauge the health of the global indie industry. Judging from the business done over the past week — the 2021 EFM wraps Friday — the general assessment would be: The patient is stable and the prognosis is promising.

“For the first time in many markets, we are seeing a proper supply of films: we’ve got movies for every taste, every budget, every genre,” says Stefano Massuzi of Italian distributor Lucky Red. “With progress on vaccines and the promise of theaters reopening it feels like a re-start.”

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"While concerns around COVID -19 infections in the U.S. and Europe continue, causing a somewhat bleak immediate outlook, 56% of respondents expect significant improvement in the second half of the year," said Joe Brusuelas, RSM US LLP chief economist. "American consumers are holding on to "Businesses are still navigating the challenges of the COVID -19 pandemic, and the Middle Market Business Index continues to provide intelligent insight," said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "While challenges persist, people are seeing a

Energy markets were not spared the volatility either, with oil prices surging more than 5% overnight to their highest in over a year, after OPEC and its allies agreed to keep production unchanged into April as demand recovery from the coronavirus pandemic was still fragile. Stocks traded lower on Thursday after another technology- led selloff on Wednesday. A new report on weekly unemployment claims came in better than expected, helping boost sentiment after a disappointing print on private payroll growth came in just a day earlier.

That optimism was reflected in the ambition of some of the films brought to the 2021 EFM. The COVID pandemic, and the lack of affordable insurance to cover for pandemic-imposed shutdowns, slammed the brakes on many of the biggest indie projects (Roland Emmerich’s $140 million sci-fi epic Moonfall from AGC Studios, which delivered last year, being a notable exception), but in Berlin, the tentpole titles returned.

FilmNation and CAA launched In Lost Lands, a fantasy epic from Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson, starring Milla Jovovich and Dave Bautista, based on a story by Game of Thrones novelist George R.R. Martin. Lionsgate rolled out Eli Roth’s hotly-anticipated adaptation of blockbuster sci-fi horror video game Borderlands. And AGC Studios lined up Shailene Woodley and Anthony Mackie for its prison-set thriller Panopticon produced with Scott Free and director by Narcos helmer Andrés Baiz.

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“My big takeaway from this market is that the big companies are going bigger and the smaller companies have become smaller,” says Cindy Mi Lin, CEO of Beijing-based distributor Infotainment China Media, which acquired China rights to AGC’s The Blacksmith — a comic book action adaptation from Taken director Pierre Morel — ahead of Berlin. “AGC, Lionsgate, and FilmNation have all gone bigger, with budgets that are almost studio-level — all $70 million to $160 million and they’re all offering sci-fi, which is interesting. They’re producing studio-look movies and going big. The small companies have become smaller, with smaller budgets. There are no medium-sized films in the market.”

While the middle may be getting squeezed, there was plenty of business in Berlin for both the top-end tentpoles and low-budget arthouse fare. The latter — which tends to dominate the Berlin Film Festival’s official program — found takers in the likes of Neon, which scooped up North American rights to Céline Sciamma’s well-received competition title Petite Maman, or Cinema Guild, which nabbed U.S. rights to Hong Sangsoo’s black-and-white minimalist drama Introduction.

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The "Environmental Consulting Services Global Market Report 2021: COVID -19 Impact and Recovery to 2030" report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com's offering. The growth is mainly due to the companies rearranging their operations and recovering from the COVID -19 impact, which had earlier led to restrictive containment measures involving social distancing, remote working, and the closure of commercial activities that resulted in operational challenges.

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“We’ve been busy! We announced UK/Ireland deals for three films by female directors: The Souvenir Part II from Joanna Hogg, True Things from Harry Wootliff and Hatching by Hanna Bergholm,” notes Clare Binns, joint managing director of UK arthouse exhibitor Picturehouse Cinemas. “Our commitment to quality indies and foreign language cinema on the big screen remains stronger than ever.”

However, much like in Sundance a few weeks earlier, the biggest deals for finished films were struck by studios and global streamers, who have shown the willingness to pay top dollar for buzzy indie titles both niche and mainstream. Universal’s Focus Features snatched up most of the world on Red Rocket, Sean Baker’s follow up to The Florida Project, from FilmNation ahead of Berlin, with only a handful of territories — including France (Le Pacte), Israel (Lev Cinemas), and Australia/New Zealand (Roadshow Distribution) — going to indie buyers. A24 has rights in North America.

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Netflix secured a pair of eight-figure deals: paying a reported $15 million for North America and Latin America rights to Colin Firth World War II movie Operation Mincemeat from The King’s Speech producer See-Saw and Cohen Media Group, and dropping $18 million for U.S. rights to Liam Neeson-Laurence Fishburne action-thriller The Ice Road in a deal with CAA Media finance (The Solution is handling international sales on the project, which is written and directed by Die Hard With A Vengeance and Armageddon screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh).

International indie buyers have been more cautious, in part because theater re-openings are still a piecemeal affair. While cinemas in several big territories are open for business, including Australia/New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and there’s been promising progress in the U.S., with cinemas in art-house-friendly New York set to open Friday [March 5] —Europe remains a grey zone. Italy and Germany have laid out plans to begin re-opening theaters, perhaps as early as late March, and the U.K. is aiming for a return to semi-normal operations May 17, but few expect the emergence from lockdown to be smooth or straightforward.

Alamo Drafthouse’s bankruptcy filing this week was a stark reminder of how precarious the exhibition business remains.

“Distributors adapting to the local conditions of each territory is, of course, crucial, and as the state of the world differs country by country, being nimble is more important than ever,” says Elizabeth Williams, director of acquisitions and development at Signature Entertainment. “I’ve had Zooms this week with people in Australia essentially living in a non-Covid world right now, with people in the U.S. who have barely left their homes in a year…Overall though, there is a consensus that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The news of cinemas re-opening in the U.K. in a couple of months has given everyone a boost, and in the meantime, there are many good films to acquire and release for those at home keen for some escapism.”

Alex Ritman and Patrick Brzeski contributed to this report.

Raya And The Last Dragon leads the box office for the third weekend .
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