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B movies lack stars, money and luck

May 14, 2009 |  4:43 pm

For the 'Magic Man' and other low-budget films, the marketplace is overcrowded.


Surprise disappearances drive the plot in the illusionist crime drama "Magic Man," but the vanishing act at the film's initial Cannes market screening Wednesday was hardly what its filmmakers wanted to see.

Occupying the very first screening slot in the Marché, as the sprawling market component of the Cannes Film Festival is known, "Magic Man" had come to the south of France looking for distributors from around the world.

But just 10 minutes into the "Magic Man" screening, the buyers from Japan, Germany and Russia headed for the exits. From the several dozen shoppers in seats when the lights went down, only five were left when they came back up.

"It was really uncomfortable to see that happen," said the film's star, Estelle Raskin, who was sitting in the theater during the exodus. Raskin's father, Gregory, an Ohio wireless communications executive, bankrolled the $3-million crime story. "But the people who are selling the movie said that happens all the time -- the buyers leave to go see something else."

Putting movies up for sale is not always a pretty business, and at this year's Cannes it has been particularly unsightly for B movies, films like "Magic Man" that have neither big stars nor hefty budgets to entice buyers.

Sales have been slumping for all kinds of movies, and the same market forces that are impairing highbrow art films are taking an equal -- if not greater toll -- on the crime dramas, erotic thrillers and horror titles looking for a home in the Cannes market, films such as "Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer" and "Stripped Naked."

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Photo: Star Estelle Raskin at the festival. B movies like “Magic Man” face a tough marketplace. Credit: Stephanie Cornfield / For the Times