The heavyweight US sales companies are set to unveil new projects at Toronto ahead of the AFM, confident a weaker US dollar and a buoyant mood from Cannes will prove good for business.

The sheer volume of acquisitions in Cannes engendered a giddy sense of accomplishment in the international sector, and built on the optimism fostered by Sundance and the AFM last year.

If there is a through-line these days it is that a robust marketplace can endure as long as smart producers and sales agents continue to make quality material for a price that will satisfy hungry international buyers. Can Toronto keep it going?

The general consensus seems to be that it can. While the Canadian festival is renowned for a relaxed environment where people settle back into the groove after summer and watch the season’s likely Oscar contenders, it has evolved into a place where international business will happen if projects are ready.

North American acquisitions have always taken place in the lobbies and hotel rooms of Toronto and indeed that business has become more competitive. Lionsgate, Summit and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions (SPWA) will be contending with re-energised buyers such as The Weinstein Company and Relativity, not to mention Open Road, FilmDistrict and CBS Films, a hitherto low-key buyer that has brought in former SPWA executive Scott Shooman over the summer to head acquisitions.

Last year Stuart Ford’s IM Global closed multiple pre-sales on its Judge Dredd reboot Dredd. Ford said at the time he saw no reason to wait for the AFM. His peers agree and a number of sales agents are planning to launch new titles.

‘Toronto is less crazy than AFM, so it’s a good place to get people’s attention’

Nicolas Chartier, Voltage Pictures

“Once even one company [commences sales on a big title] with great hoopla, others must follow,” says Lisa Wilson, president of international distribution at GK Films and Parlay Films. “Particularly for sales agents handling outside projects, it is impossible to explain to the producers that clients would rather not deal with pre-sales in Toronto if someone else is doing press releases about the huge amount of business they did at Toronto.”

Wilson says that if a film were ready to screen, she would not hesitate to introduce it in Toronto. She will debut promos of Parlay titles Red Lights from Rodrigo Cortes, Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage and Amy Heckerling’s Vamps and will continue pre-sales on Roger Donaldson’s Cities.

For GK Films, Wilson will aim to sell remaining territories on Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut In The Land Of Blood And Honey, which FilmDistrict will release in the US on December 23.

Opportunity knocks

“If we’re going to be in the same place with distributors from around the world, why wouldn’t we take the opportunity to introduce and sell new films?” says FilmNation CEO Glen Basner, who scored at Toronto last year with Midnight’s Children and Looper. “In some cases it will be finished films screening in the festival, or we have projects put together and ready to go. We will launch two new sales titles at TIFF.”

Exclusive Films International president of sales and distribution Alex Walton suggests the environment rewards quality and not necessarily quantity. “There’s a need for product for 2013 and people bought a lot of films in Cannes. I don’t think their appetite will be any less [in Toronto],” he says.

Walton, co-president Alex Brunner and their team will continue sales on George Clooney’s Venice opener The Ides Of March as well as American football documentary Undefeated.

“I hope we’ll be setting up four films from the beginning of September to the end of November, and we will launch some titles [in Toronto],” Walton says.

‘Toronto has turned into a mini-market, though not fully fledged like AFM or Cannes’

Xavier Marchand, Momentum

Sierra/Affinity head Nick Meyer will sell territories on Toronto premiere Rampart from Oren Moverman and has already concluded sales with Studio­Canal for the UK and Metropolitan for France. “Toronto’s always been a great showcase for movies that will either be released in the fourth quarter or early next year, so buyers go to see what the movies look like,” Meyer says. “It’s always been a great place to sell finished films for domestic and foreign.”

Prior to Toronto, Voltage Pictures chief Nicolas Chartier sent out scripts on several titles including Imogene, a vehicle for Kristen Wiig who co-wrote and starred in the summer smash Bridesmaids. Chartier says everybody who buys goes to Toronto, adding: “It’s a good festival because people come to watch movies and it’s less crazy than AFM, so it’s a good place to get people’s attention.”

John Flock of fledgling distributor and sales house W2 Media notes the market in Toronto has evolved over the past three years into a seller’s market.

Momentum’s London-based president Xavier Marchand echoes the theme. “In the last two or three years [Toronto has] turned into a mini-market, though not fully fledged like AFM, Cannes and Berlin,” he says, noting it is rare to see completed US films in the market. Buyers from the Alliance Films umbrella that includes Momentum will be out in force, scouring the festival for available rights in the UK, Canada and Spain.

“This is a festival that’s evolving rapidly and it’s definitely the kick-off for the fall selling and buying season,” says Inferno’s Kim Fox, who expects to introduce a title there. “Everyone’s coming back and wants to see what’s coming up for the coming year.”

All eyes now turn to the market line-up. One thing is for sure: the recent ­economic wobble will entice people to get their wallets out. “People love having a shitty dollar,” one sales executive says. “It helps buyers.”