By Michael Roddy
LONDON (Reuters) - Fashion designer and director Tom Ford whisked into Cannes and a roomful of potential investors in his latest movie, who were treated to spritzes of one of his perfumes.
He waltzed back out again with, according to trade media, a staggering $20 million for the rights to distribute "Nocturnal Animals", a film in pre-production that hasn't yet been shot.
Cannes is not only one of the world's most prestigious film festivals. The Marche du Film (Film Market) - a forum for attracting financing for new films and selling movie rights - which runs simultaneously, is one of the must-go events for big money, the major studio wheelers and dealers, and the smaller fry who keep the world supplied with thousands of films every year.
There are recurring rumors of the death of European film markets associated with festivals like Cannes and, on a lesser scale, Berlin, but there are plenty of green shoots on La Croisette this year.
"It's certainly not a flat edition of the Cannes market, there's plenty of activity, different types of activity," Nick Vivarelli, a reporter for trade publication Variety, said.
Ford's "Nocturnal Animals", which will star Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, tells the story of a woman interpreting dark meanings in a novel written by her ex-husband.
The director's coup in bagging Focus Features, an offshoot of Universal Pictures, to buy the worldwide rights last week was the big headline for the trade publications, but a lot more was going on at the Cannes market this year.
Michael Garin, CEO of Abu Dhabi-based Image Nation, said Cannes had generated significant interest for IM's film version of Dave Eggers's novel "The Circle".
One of the biggest titles IM has ever produced, the film stars Tom Hanks and is set in a Silicon Valley social media company whose employees are pressured to share everything about themselves.
"We honestly have not just exceeded our expectations but significantly exceeded our expectations," Garin said in a phone interview.
That view was seconded by the co-founders of Italy-based AMBI, run by Monika Bacardi, of the Bacardi rum family, and filmmaker Andrea Iervolino.
Founded two years ago, AMBI makes English-language films, including two being pitched at Cannes: James Franco's adaptation of John Steinbeck's "In Dubious Battle" and the 3D animation film "Arctic Justice" with a budget of $61 million.
"We are only in our second (film) market in Cannes but we are very happy," Bacardi said at the AMBI office on the top floor of the Palais, where many of the screenings take place.
Nor was there too much complaining from the booths on the lower floors selling low-budget films.
Andy Schreiber of Burbank, California-based Cinema Libre Studio said he'd had strong buyer interest in a documentary about the rise to fame of British band The Police in the late 1970s, although investors were watching every penny.
"It's not as strong a business as it was 10 years ago but those of us who stay at it, and have a good product, we survive," Schreiber said.
(Editing by Susan Fenton)