Arab Today, arab today bgrade movies do booming tv trade
Last Updated : GMT 11:26:44
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Behind Cannes's glitz

B-grade movies do booming TV trade

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today B-grade movies do booming TV trade

Technicians at work at 68th Cannes Festival
Cannes - Arab Today

You've seen the movie "Black Swan", but what about "White Swan"? Or "Avengers Grimm"? Or "Darker Shades of Grey"? Or "Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies"?

You won't catch these features at your local movie theatre, but they and other B and C-grade flicks are doing booming business in the Cannes market running in parallel with the film festival.

Sales to television and video-on-demand companies are strong, with China emerging as a key customer for the trashy niche, producers and distributors dealing with such films told AFP.

Those in the sector are frank about what they're selling.

"I think there's really good independent movies that deserve to be seen. And outside that there's a bunch of crap," said Lawrence Silverstein, vice-president for sales and marketing at one Los Angeles-based outfit called Osiris Entertainment.

Silverstein pointed to a poster of "House of Bad" on his stand (plotline: three fugitive sisters with a suitcase of stolen heroin hide out in their childhood home, haunted by their parents) and said, "It's not a great horror movie, but it's not bad." (Reviews on the Internet disagree.)

But he also showed a teaser of a crowd-funded indie horror-comedy called "Clinger", in which an accidentally decapitated teen returns to stalk his unrequited love. It looked well-paced and entertaining.

- 'Mockbusters' -

Other posters around the Cannes market, including one showing a Thor-like superhero wearing a red cap and brandishing a hammer over the title "God of Thunder", underlined a whole category in the niche known as "mockbusters".

These knockoffs, made to resemble small-budget versions of Hollywood blockbusters, ride the marketing slipstream of the originals to tempt people looking for something to watch at home, not at the cinema.

"We find a similar genre and hint at it in the title," said David Rimawi, a producer and seller at The Asylum, one of the bigger LA outfits in the sector.

Naturally, the big US studios aren't happy, especially with piracy also squeezing revenues. But the B-grade merchants are careful to stay just on the right side of the line of what constitutes a copy and what is sufficiently different.

"Their feeling, which we don't necessarily agree with, is that it can cannibalise their market. But we would completely disagree, because what would cannibalise their market is a pirated movie of their movie," said Rimawi.

"We've all settled in an area where we're not too egregious. It's clearly a different movie but there'll be some word or term that's similar to the other ones."

The Asylum has a catalogue of 200 films and makes around 15 a year, each with a budget of $500,000 to $2 million (436,000 euros to 1.7 million euros) and done mostly in-house, with hired directors.

Apart from mockbusters such as "Age of Tomorrow" and Mad Max-inspired "Road Wars", it also makes its own zany horror movies, of which "Sharknado" (killer sharks swept inland by a tornado) is probably the most famous.

- China hungry for B-grade movies -

Other fare, driven by client demand -- often Japanese -- includes "3-Headed Shark Attack" and "Mom, Tommy Made a Dinosaur". A zombie series, "Z-Nation", is showing on the US cable channel SyFy.

Films made for TV and video-on-demand (VOD) are the main outlets for this fare, though occasionally distributors in small territories such as Romania pick them up for theatrical release.

The massive, recent shift away from DVD sales to VOD has fragmented the market, but the players are seeing signs of strong buyer interest from Asian nations, especially China.

"There's a big VOD market in China," said Douglas Price, CEO and producer at D3 Telefilm, which is looking to get around Chinese quotas on foreign film imports by co-producing with Chinese companies.

"They have to understand that you have to bring more American/European actors into the movies -- they can't just be all purely Chinese," he said.

Although the Chinese co-producers demand all distribution rights in China, that "is no big problem for me," he said.

"They will give you the rights for around the world, which to me I think is a good deal."

Certainly the appetite in Asia and the Middle East for B-grade movies is buoying the market. So much so, that -- as the tagline for the snowbound Austrian flick "Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies" says -- "it's all downhill from here".
Source: AFP

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