Searchlight has apparently struck again here in Toronto. Peter Rice, president of Fox Searchlight Pictures, confirmed his company’s acquisition of Bart Freundlich‘s “Trust The Man” from Sidney Kimmel Entertainment Tuesday afternoon. The Indiewood division then sent out a press release announcing the deal at 3 p.m. today, with no other company claiming the rights to the film. The multi-million dollar pact puts Searchlight in the middle of the two key acquisitions at the festival thus far, with buyers doubting that many other major deals would go down here at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Fox Searchlight acquired domestic and some international rights to the movie, according to the announcement, in a deal valued as high as $6 million according to insiders. The film is a romantic comedy starring Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Billy Crudup and Maggie Gyllenhaal, in the story of a group of modern day New Yorkers dealing with life and love in the big city. Tim Perell of Process Productions and Sidney Kimmel of Sidney Kimmel Entertainment produced it.
Rice jumped on the film immediately after its world premiere last night, closing the deal after midnight according to sources. Searchlight’s EVP Joseph De Marco and SVP of acquisitions Tony Safford negotiated the pact with Kimmel president Jim Tauber and Rick Hess from CAA. Tim Orr shot the film and John Gilroy edited the picture. Chatting with indieWIRE outside Tuesday’s press and industry screenings at the Varsity theaters, Rice said that he might pursue a spring or summer ’06 release.
Few other films seem to be stirring widespread interest thus far, with buyers and sellers buzzing more about the situation between Paramount Classics and Fox Searchlight than about the movies. Asked the latest regarding Jason Reitman’s “Thank You For Smoking,” which Fox and Paramount both claim to own, Rice reiterated indieWIRE simply, “We have a signed deal, it’s our movie, we got it.” No other movement was seen in the unresolved situation.
While critics seem to be celebrating a number of new American films that are poised for a North American release, U.S. buyers have been especially vocal in their moaning about the lack of nedw movies to acquire, with the head of an Indiewood company telling indieWIRE yesterday, shockingly, “I am seeing the worst movies I have ever seen at a film festival.” The leader of another distribution company noted that the list of available titles in Toronto this year is filled with “dogs, dogs, dogs,” and still another top company exec complained about having to go home empty handed. Finally, a leading executive at another key American company said simply, “It’s an off year, I can’t take it anymore.” But the exec added, “I don’t blame the festival, it was a bad Cannes too.”
Of the films seen as likely acquisition targets, the hottest title may be Ward Serrill‘s “The Heart of the Game” about a girls basketball team. Other pictures that buyers seem to be buzzing about so far include David Ayer‘s “Harsh Times”, starring Christian Bale in a tough Los Angeles story about a Gulf War veteran who returns home, and Sydney Pollack‘s doc about architect Frank Gehry, entitled “Sketches of Frank Gehry”.