Film Scouts Buzz

1996 Cannes Film Festival Buzz
The Movie Market

by Karen Jaehne

May 12, 1996

It's early in the market. People are still cautious about using stuff in the mini-fridge and catching up with people they used to hate. But deal must be made soon.

Talk swirled around an American buyer for the French opening night film by director Patrice Leconte, "Ridicule," but hoopla as an opening night film at Cannes doesn't often translate into almighty dollars. Here, where there are people marketing some of the worst trash you'll ever lay eyes on, a film with period costumes and men in wigs and grand estates and ladies simpering behind fans looks like hot product. But back in America, "Restoration" is a similar kind of movie, and it's hanging on by a few sprockets to one art house. The movie titles even sound the same, so I bet it's a long shot on "Ridicule" scooping up a big sale.

Turns out I'm wrong. Miramax outbids several companies with an offer put between $550,000 and $1 million. I've been wrong before - like the time I said Odyssey is a very smart company. They'll be around for a while. Well, they slipped into one of those Paragraphs (7 or 11 or something that sounds like a corner market), but the good news is - they're back!

Sitting on the Carlton Terrace (I love starting sentences like this), I was about to leave to see the dread Peter Greenaway pic, when two very nice men named Steven Greenwald and Ira Smith arrived to inform me and my buddy, Mayra, that Odyssey is with us again - after three defunct years.

Now, an executive dies a thousand deaths; a film company dies but one - and not for lack of trying. People like Steven Greenwald and Ira Smith keep them alive as long as possible - doing workouts, etc. - or simply take them over, becoming respectively CEO and president. Financing is on the horizon for new equity (in the millions) and a financing line of new acquisitions of foreign rights to North American-produced films (north of $20 million).

"Ira and I've been partners since 1979," says Greenwald. "In the 1980s we financed more than $250 million in motion picture deals." They've been involved with many companies over the decades - Vision, De Laurentiis, Weintraub, Nelson and, clearly, specialize in work-outs. Why did they take on Odyssey? "The company still had a good reputation internationally and as a public company, with a good library of quality films. Those characteristics enable us to seize the opportunity to raise new financing."

The guys have taken offices in the Carlton to promote and pre-sell a Sorvino project - yes, Mira Sorvino and papa Paul in a film that will have the quality we used to enjoy in Odyssey product. Thanks, Steve, thank you, Ira.

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