One of the most dazzling Toronto line-ups in years – on paper at least – has set up what could well become a memorable 10 days of business as domestic distributors old and new prepare to battle it out for rights.
If the festival’s audacious programme of high-concept, starry films plays well then the industry can expect a lively session of horse-trading from any combination of specialty distributors on the look-out for awards contenders, studios and big independents on the prowl for 2013 programing and ambitious digital and alternative distribution players seeking to grow their pipelines.
Several fledgling wide release operators are showing signs of finding their feet. CBS Films pulled off the headline buy of Toronto 2011 with Salmon Fishing In The Yemen and while that film performed modestly in theatres the distributor scored its biggest hit to date with the February release of The Woman In Black. FilmDistrict and Open Road are well capitalised companies that mean business: the former holds domestic rights to Toronto’s Thursday night (6) opener Looper while Open Road will release festival entry End Of Watch. Both open in theatres later this month.
Meanwhile Oscilloscope Laboratories co-founder David Fenkel has partnered with Guggenheim money to launch A24 and hungry digital and alternative distribution players like GoDigital and Drafthouse Films are starting to make themselves heard.
Exclusive Media is expected to announce its foray into domestic distribution during the festival and nobody is ruling out the prospect of high-profile buys from deep-pocketed players like Steve Rales’ Indian Paintbrush and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures – back in the game with the acquisition earlier this week of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers.
Some of the most anticipated screenings at the festival are off the table. In recent weeks Sony Pictures Classics snapped up Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price and Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep. Warner Bros has Cloud Atlas and Argo, Harvey Weinstein is preparing his awards campaign for The Master fresh from the largely well-received world premiere on the Lido and Focus Features will distribute Anna Karenina and Hyde Park On Hudson. All these titles screen over the weekend with the exception of Hyde Park On Hudson on Monday.
So what films in Toronto are top of buyers’ lists? A crowded Friday (7) kicks off with afternoon public screenings of Robert Pulcini’s comedy Imogene (pictured) starring Kristen Wiig (UTA represents North American rights and Voltage Pictures sells international) and The Place Beyond The Pines (WME-CAA; Sierra/Affinity), boasting a reunion between Ryan Gosling and his Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance.
The evening brings Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (UTA worldwide) produced by Scott Rudin and starring Greta Gerwig, who charmed Telluride audiences; Henry James adaptation What Maisie Knew (WME; Fortissimo) starring Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan; Baltasar Kormakur’s true-life survival thriller The Deep (WME; Bac Films); Sally Potter’s coming-of-age drama Ginger And Rosa (Cinetic; Match Factory) and press and industry screening of A Liar’s Autobiography – The Untrue Story Of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman (Brainstorm Media; SC Films Interntional).
Saturday highlights include the darkly comic morality tale The Brass Teapot (Gersh; TF1 International) starring Juno Temple; Stuart Blumberg’s tale of recovering sex addicts Thanks For Sharing (UTA-WME; Voltage) with Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo; wunderkind Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (CAA); and press and industry screenings of the Chilean earthquake story Aftershock (CAA; FilmNation), which Dimension is understood to be pursuing, and Sarajevo-set melodrama Twice Born (CAA: Wild Bunch) starring Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch.
Neil Jordan’s vampire tale Byzantium (WME-CAA; WestEnd) screens on Sunday and stars Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton. The same day sees premieres for Andrew Adamson’s drama Mr Pip (UTA; Focus Features International) starring Hugh Laurie; Writers (CAA; The Solution Entertainment Group) from newcomer Josh Boone starring Greg Kinnear as an author obsessed with his ex-wife; J T Petty’s Midnight Madness horror-comedy Hellbenders (Preferred Content); and a press and industry screening of Brian De Palma’s erotic thriller Passion (ICM Partners) starring Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams.
Monday’s hot list includes an afternoon screening of Arthur Newman (CAA-UTA; Focus Features International) starring Colin Firth and Emily Blunt as lost souls attempting to reinvent themselves; Ariel Vroman’s hitman biopic The Iceman (Millennium/Nu Image), which premiered in Venice and is generating heat for Michael Shannon; love story Still (Paradigm) starring James Cromwell; and Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder (CAA; FilmNation) starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, which appears to have baffled and bewitched Venice critics in equal measure.
Screenings later next week include the documentary Venus And Serena (Cinetic) on Tuesday and Peter Webber’s wartime drama Emperor (CAA; Sierra/Affinity) starring Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox on Friday (14).
Off-piste interest is expected to coalesce around footage from several projects including Mr Morgan’s Last Love starring Michael Caine, which ICM Partners and Global Screen represent for North America and international, respectively.
Buyers are also keen to see what they can of Lasse Hallstrom’s crime thriller The Hypnotist from Svensk, as well as UK teen comedy-horror Love Bite from WestEnd, Intandem’s Matt Busby football drama Theatre Of Dreams starring Brian Cox and Natascha McElhone, and Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. IM Global’s Acclaim label handles international sales.