As TIFF wound down, the weekend sale of Will Ferrell’s $6 million dark comedy Everything Must Go to Lionsgate/Roadside marked a more frenetic Toronto sales market than last year, when many sales took months to close. Horror film Insidious also sold, to Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Group, probably for 2011 Screen Gems release. “It’s a genre distributor’s wet dream,” says IM Global’s Stuart Ford, who wasn’t worried about landing North American distribs for these and two more titles at Toronto this year–all were modestly-budgeted and pre-sold in foreign territories. “The market is still challenging, but healthier than it was a year ago. There’s more supply and demand. While you’re not seeing many movies sell on the spot, the stronger material is likely to find the right distribution home.”
This Toronto, while specialty distributors like Apparition and Miramax were out of the game, Fox Searchlight, Focus Features and Sony Pictures Classics were seeking product, the restructured Weinstein Co. had cash to burn, Relativity/Rogue had absorbed Overture, Paramount had kept Vantage going, and indies Summit, Lionsgate/Roadside, Magnolia/Magnet, IFC and Oscilloscope were in the hunt. So was ex-Miramax chief Daniel Battsek, now running National Geographic Films (who took Peter Weir’s The Way Back to Telluride but not Toronto, and will supervise its release by Newmarket Films, which may provide a year-end Oscar-qualifying run, but won’t open the film until 2011).
What made the difference? Well, in a more deliberative and cautious climate, TIFF’s acquisitions titles were more commercial. And most of the sales were genre films skewed toward a younger audience. Barry Blaustein’s black comedy Peep World went to IFC, which also picked up another Rainn Wilson comedy, SUPER. Raunchy high school comedy Dirty Girl sold to Weinstein Co., along with coming-of-age teen flick Submarine. And Magnet Releasing grabbed Kim Jee-woon’s bloody serial killer movie I Saw The Devil.
Movies geared for grown-ups include Rabbit Hole, which Lionsgate acquired with an Oscar campaign for Nicole Kidman in mind, while Lionsgate/Roadside won’t release Robert Redford’s period drama The Conspirator starring James McAvoy and Robin Wright, until 2011. Also dealing with the loss of a child is Beautiful Boy, starring Michael Sheen and Maria Bello as parents whose high school son commits suicide, which was acquired by Anchor Bay. Sony Pictures Classics scooped up Barney’s Version and Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies. IFC also bought two docs, Werner Herzog’s 3-D Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Barry Avrich’s Unauthorized, the Harvey Weinstein Project, which did not play Toronto. And Oscilloscope acquired Kelly Reichardt’s arty western Meek’s Cutoff.
Ford had so much business to attend to during Toronto this year that he set up a hotel sales suite and pre-sold territories on IM Global/Reliance’s $45-million 3-D remake Judge Dredd–to the tune of more than $30 million. “There were too many movies and people to leave it all to cell phones,” he says. He also did business on $10-million horror flick The Bay, from the producers of Paranormal Activity, to be directed by Barry Levinson. Starting filming in four weeks is Boaz Yakin’s $30-million Safe, starring Jason Statham. Will we see any of these titles in a future TIFF? We’ll see how they turn out.