news Cannes 2023 Film Market Acquisitions: Pablo Berger’s Animated ‘Robot Dreams’ Lands at Neon

The 2023 Cannes Market is underway alongside the iconic film festival, and while auteurs from around the world will compete for the Palme d’Or, buyers will be hunting for the next international breakout hit.

Last year’s Marché du Film netted deals for the Palme winner “Triangle of Sadness” and festival darlings like “EO” and “The Eight Mountains,” but also splashy package deals for the Emily Blunt movie “Pain Hustlers” and “Fingernails” with Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed. This year’s market is stacked with similarly commercial packages, including new films from Mike Flanagan, Michel Gondry, Pablo Larraín, and more. The competition slate is headlined by Todd Haynes’ “May December,” which stars Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore — it’s rare that such a starry, English-language title actually hits the Croisette without distribution.

Below are some of the deals we’ve tracked out of Cannes so far, and we’ll be updating this space with more sales as they come in.

Title: “Robot Dreams”
Section: Special Screenings
Distributor: Neon

Neon on Wednesday has acquired ahead of its Cannes premiere the North American rights to the first animated feature from Spanish filmmaker Pablo Berger (“Blancanieves”), “Robot Dreams,” which is playing in the Special Screenings section on Saturday. It’s the first major deal for an official competition title during the festival and represents a streak of acquisitions from Neon at Cannes, which now includes three Palme d’Or winners, “Parasite,” “Titane,” and “Triangle of Sadness.”

The film, which is based on a graphic novel by Sara Varon, follows DOG, who lives in Manhattan and one day, tired of being alone, decides to build himself a robot, a companion. Their friendship blossoms, until they become inseparable, to the rhythm of 80’s NYC. One summer night, DOG, with great sadness, is forced to abandon ROBOT at the beach. Will they ever meet again?

Berger also produces “Robot Dreams” alongside Ibon Cormenzana, Ignasi Estapé, Sandra Tapia Diaz, Ángel Durández, with Jérôme Vidal, Sylvie Pialat and Benoit Quainon co-producing. The deal was negotiated by Sarah Colvin on behalf of Neon with Adeline Fontan Tessaur co-founder of Elle Driver, who represents worldwide sales rights to the film in Cannes.

Title: “Den of Thieves 2: Pantera”
Section: Package
Distributor: Briarcliff Entertainment

Briarcliff Entertainment acquired the U.S. distribution rights to “Den of Thieves 2: Pantera,” the sequel to the Gerard Butler action thriller “Den of Thieves” from 2018, out of the Cannes market, and the distributor plans to release it theatrically in the fourth quarter of 2024. The film is in production now.

Christian Gudegast returns to direct and write the sequel along with stars Butler and O’Shea Jackson Jr. The film follows Butler’s Big Nick back on the hunt on the mean streets of Europe and tracking Donnie (Jackson) who is embroiled with the infamous Panther mafia that is plotting a massive heist of the world’s biggest diamond exchange.

The original “Den of Thieves” grossed $80 million worldwide. The new film is financed by eOne and Tucker Tooley Entertainment, and Briarcliff acquired the film from eOne.

Title: “Mercy Road”
Section: Promos
Distributor: Well Go USA

Luke Bracey stars in this psychological thriller as an everyman who commits an impulsive and vicious crime. The film is directed by John Curran and was sold out of Cannes by Arclight Films. Well Go USA is planning a North American release for the film in late 2023.

The film is produced by Arclight Films’ Gary Hamilton, Ying Ye and Michelle Krumm. Filmmaker Alex Proyas, Penny Karlin and Daniaile Jarry are also producers.

Title: “Camp Hideout”
Section: Promos
Distributor: Roadside Attractions

“Camp Hideout,” a new comedy that stars Christopher Lloyd, has landed with Roadside Attractions for U.S. distribution, while Highland Film Group is launching international sales on the film at the Cannes market.

The comedy directed by Sean Olson is about a troubled teen who steals a top-secret gadget and hides out in a summer camp run by an eccentric character played by Lloyd. Dave DeBorde, Kat Olsen and C. Neil Davenport wrote the film. Phillip Glasser and Jason Brown are producers.

The film will be released theatrically by Roadside on September 15. The deal was negotiated by Roadside Attractions Co-President, Howard Cohen and Jason Brown on behalf of Called Higher Studios and PZAJ.

Title: “Across the River and Into the Trees”
Section: Promos
Distributor: Bleecker Street

In its second deal from the Marché, Bleecker Street acquired North American rights to “Across the River and into the Trees” starring Liev Schreiber. The film is based on Ernest Hemingway’s final novel, and the distributor plans to release it later this fall.

Paula Ortiz directs the film that also stars Matilda De Angelis, Josh Hutcherson, and Danny Huston. The film is set in post WWII Italy and follows a war hero haunted by the war who commandeers a military driver to take him to his old haunts in Venice, where he meets a remarkable young woman who will rekindle his hopes. Peter Flannery wrote the screenplay.

The film is produced by Robert MacLean and Michael Paletta for Tribune Pictures, alongside John Smallcombe, Kirstin Roegner, Ken Gord as well as Spring Era Films’ Jianmin LV and Daxing Zhang. Executive producers include William J. Immerman, Laura Paletta, David Beckingham, Justin Raikes, Simon Fawcett, Jonathan Taylor, Hani Musleh, Harel Goldstein and Rick Romano. Andrea Biscaro is the Italian line producer. The deal was brokered by Kent Sanderson and Avy Eschenasy on behalf of Bleecker Street, with Brian O’Shea of The Exchange and UTA Independent Film Group for the filmmakers.

Title: “The YouTube Effect”
Section: Promos
Distributor: Drafthouse Films

In one of three new acquisitions announced Tuesday, Drafthouse Films picked up the rights to Alex Winter’s latest documentary “The YouTube Effect,” which is the “Zappa” director’s eye-opening look at the culture and influence that surrounds YouTube. The film premiered at Tribeca back in 2022 and will now have an exclusive release in Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas on July 7 before expanding July 14.

Drafthouse also acquired another documentary, “Mister Organ,” the latest film from “Tickled” director David Farrier about another stranger than fiction story. That movie was an audience favorite at Fantastic Fest and is already a box office hit in New Zealand.

Finally was “Everyone Will Burn,” a Spanish supernatural horror film from director David Hebrero. It follows a little girl who may have the key to stopping a fabled impending apocalypse. All three films will have a theatrical release at Alamo locations and other theaters before debuting on streaming.

Title: “The Origin”
Section: Promos
Distributor: Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street on Tuesday announced it nabbed the North American rights to “The Origin” from Sony Pictures’ Stage 6, a film that world premiered at the 2022 BFI London Film Festival and was nominated for five British Independent Film Awards and won one. Bleecker is planning a 2023 theatrical release for either this fall or winter.

Andrew Cumming’s Stone Age thriller is a horror film set 45,000 years in the past and follows early humans who band together in search of a new land. But when they suspect a malevolent, mystical, being is hunting them down, the clan is forced to confront a horrifying danger they never imagined. Chuku Modu, Kit Young, Iola Evans, Safia Oakley-Green, Luna Mwezi, Arno Luening, and newcomers Rosebud Melarkey and Tyrell Mhlanga star. Ruth Greenberg wrote the script.

David Kaplan, Sam Intili, Kristin Irving for the BFI (awarding funds from the National Lottery) and Leslie Finlay for Screen Scotland serve as Executive Producers. The acquisition was negotiated by Kent Sanderson and Avy Eschenasy on behalf of Bleecker Street with Stage 6.

Ernest Cole Cannes

“Untitled Ernest Cole Documentary” from director Raoul Peck, which Magnolia picked up ahead of the Cannes MarketMagnolia

Title: “Untitled Ernest Cole Documentary”
Section: Package
Distributor: Magnolia

Magnolia acquired North American rights to an untitled documentary from “I Am Not Your Negro” filmmaker Raoul Peck about South African photographer Ernest Cole, who chronicled apartheid throughout South Africa. The film will hit the Cannes market for international sales from mk2.

The film highlights Cole’s work via more than 60,000 newly recovered 35mm film negatives shot during his time in South Africa and while in exile in the U.S. shooting across New York City and the American South. The negatives were thought to be forever lost, and the film seeks to reintroduce a great Black artist to a new generation.

Magnolia plans to release the movie theatrically. The deal was negotiated by Magnolia Co-CEO Dori Begley, as well as SVP of Acquisitions John Von Thaden, and by Range Media Partners on behalf of mk2 and the filmmakers.

Title: “The Stones and Brian Jones”
Section: Promos
Distributor: Magnolia

Nick Broomfield (“Kurt and Courtney”) directs this documentary about Brian Jones, one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones, who died in 1969, yet was key to the early success of the British rock legends. The movie features interviews with the main members of the Stones and other key players and has unseen archival footage of the band.

Magnolia acquired the film ahead of the Cannes market, while Submarine is screening it to international buyers at the Marché du Film. Magnolia will release it theatrically later this year.

“The Stones and Brian Jones” is presented by BBC Music, a Lafayette Film production, and is produced by Nick Broomfield, Shani Hinton, Marc Hoeferlin, and Kyle Gibbon. Executive producers are Paul Trynka, Harriet Vyner, and Charles Finch and Executive produced for the BBC Patrick Holland, Jan Younghusband, and Mark Bell.

Title: “Strange Way of Life”
Section: Special Screenings
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics/MUBI

Pedro Almodóvar’s latest short film “Strange Way of Life” is a Western starring Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke as two gay gunmen who reunite after working together as hired guns 25 years earlier. The film is just the second English language project from the Spanish auteur following “The Human Voice.”

Sony Pictures Classics, which also released “The Human Voice,” acquired “Strange Way of Life” while it was in pre-production and has worldwide rights to the project (excluding the UK, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Latin America), but the film ahead of the Marché landed a pair of international deals for Italy and Latin America from Mubi. Sony Pictures Classics plans to release the film this fall following its premiere as an Official Selection in the Cannes lineup.

Produced by Almodóvar’s El Deseo and presented by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello, “Strange Way of Life” also stars Pedro Casablanc, Manu Ríos, George Steane, José Condessa, Jason Fernández and Sara Sálamo. It is produced by Agustín Almodóvar, with Esther García as executive producer and Bárbara Peiró, Diego Pajuelo, and Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello as associate producers. The score is composed by four-time Academy Award nominee Alberto Iglesias.