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Toronto Deal Wrap: Early Buys Begin, New Indie Distribs

Toronto Deal Wrap: Early Buys Begin, New Indie Distribs

Thompson on Hollywood

Before the high stakes bidding begins at the Toronto Film Festival which runs Thursday September 8 through September 18, acquisitions execs are already opening their checkbooks. Several distribs are said to be chasing Steve McQueen’s erotic drama Shame, which would have to go out unrated; a studio subsidiary would have to go with an inevitable NC-17 rating, if no trims were made (so how could rumored interested distribs Sony Pictures Classics take this on? I don’t see it).

UPDATE: Fox Searchlight did release The Dreamers with an NC-17 and would be willing to do so again with Shame. The Weinstein Co. explored an R-rated version, but final cut director McQueen would have none of it; they are willing to make the director happy with an unrated release.

New distribution groups are also hanging out their shingles in advance of the fest, offering alternatives especially for lower-budget fare bound for VOD release. Weinstein Co. launched the yet-to-be-named New York-based label to be run by VOD vets from Magnolia, Tom Quinn and Jason Janego. (Magnolia, in turn, promoted its exec bench to fill their places.)

And Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp has launched Indie Direct, a full service theatrical distribution and marketing program for independent film producers, already used by ARC Entertainment for eight titles to be released this year including Killing Bono, the horror double feature Zombie Dairies & Hellraiser, and the Smell of Success.

Below are some of the acquisitions made at the Toronto Festival so far:

Tribeca Film Acquires US Rights to Tony Kaye’s Detachment
Tony Kaye’s drama stars Adrien Brody and an ensemble cast featuring James Caan, Bryan Cranston, Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, and Lucy Lui. In a turn that the Hollywood Reporter has said is Brody’s “finest performance since The Pianist,” the actor plays a talented educator, who avoids his natural ability to connect with his students by serving as a substitute teacher. When a new assignment places him in a public school with an exhausted and frustrated administration, Brody’s character becomes a role model for disaffected youth. The film had its World Premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and will be distributed in 2012.

Freestyle Releasing Acquires US Distribution rights to Sarah Palin–You Betcha!
Freestyle has acquired the US rights to Nick Broomfield’s documentary, Sarah Palin–You Betcha!, which will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on September 11. The documentary raised more than $30,000 on fund-raising site, Kickstarter, and is slated to open on September 30 in New York and Los Angeles, before moving to additional markets, writes The Hollywood Reporter.

Content Acquires International Sales Rights to Doug Aarniokoski’s The Day
Premiering in Toronto, The Day is an action thriller feature, directed by Doug Aarniokoski, that follows five survivors of a post-apocalyptic war, as they attempt to escape from endless pursuit. Content will also be selling Hick which stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Blake Lively as well as their documentary Sarah Palin—You Betcha! directed by Nick Broomfield, both premiering at Toronto.

Indomina Acquires North American Rights to Johnnie To’s Life Without Principle
Indomina, the fast-growing media producer and distributor, has acquired the rights to Hong Kong maestro Johnnie To’s thriller Life Without Principle. To directed Vengeance and Running Out of Time. This Toronto premiere tells the interweaving story of three characters all desperate for money: a financial analyst anxious to meet her sale target, a small-time thug trying to earn enough cash to bail out his friend, and a police inspector, whose spouse has a spending problem. When a bag of stolen money worth $5 million appears, the trio team up for an adventure in morality.

Strand Release Acquires Markus Schleinzer’s Michael
Markus Schleinzer’s Michael tells the story of the last five months of a 10-year-old boy’s life as he is kept locked up in a basement by an older man. Michael had its world premiere at Cannes and will premiere in North America at Toronto. Strand has acquired the rights from Les Films du Losange and will release the film theatrically in February 2012.

[Image from Doug Aarniokoski’s The Day]

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For THE DREAMERS and LUST CAUTION, their R-rated versions were only released in home video market.

Fox Searchlight can edit the R-rated version of SHAME themselves; Steve McQueen will be fine as long as Fox Searchlight (or other distributor) release the uncut version of SHAME theatrically.


Fox Searchlight did figure out how to open an uncut THE DREAMERS, though I dare say that was far tamer than McQueen’s film. Fox also later made two versions of THE DREAMERS — one uncut, the other R-rated — available, as did Focus with LUST, CAUTION; I’m not sure that’s possible with SHAME.


BTW, Fox Searchlight don’t have any film to open in Dec 2011, so they definitely can open “Shame” in Dec 2011.


It was Deadline’s Mike Fleming which reported that Sony Pictures Classics and Fox Searchlight wanted to acquire “Shame”, so it may not only be a ‘rumor’.

I’m not surprised that Fox Searchlight (or SPC) want to buy “Shame”. I somewhat agree with what Kristopher Tapley said; releasing “Shame” would be a great statement that a dependent isn’t merely in the business of ‘indie but accessible.’

On the other hand, the asking price of “Shame” domestic rights was still only around mid-six figure (as Deadline reported); it is a relatively cheap price for studio subsidiaries. If Fox Searchlight (or SPC) can pay around $1 million to buy “Shame”, they are very likely to make good profit on “Shame” after releasing the film on ancillary markets. (Other NC-17 sexual films like “The Dreamers”, “Bad Education” and “Lust, Caution” performed very well in US home video market, and “Shame” has much bigger starpower than those three films.)

Elin Jensen

Can’t believe it’s already time for TIFF… leaving the snowy Alnö for Toronto tomorrow! Time to start packing for 9.20 flight tomorrow and going to mexibar with Tuschi for some yummy cocktails tonight!! Wohoo!!! Wondering if 5 dresses, 2 trousers, 3 pairs of shoes, 5 tops, 1 bikini + 1 skirt is enough for 1 week in Toronto?? Maybe I need more shoes…hahah.. freakin’ fantastic, can’t wait!


Kudos to Steve McQueen for not cutting his movie. How on earth can you cut a movie like Shame? It would be a very short movie. It’s not meant to be sexy, people should go out of the gutter. I had the fortune of watching Shame and it’s an amzing movie that should stay as it is. They want to distribute it? They get it as it is, no false coyness. Not all movies are for children or teens. An 18 rating is not the kiss of death in Europe, so why should it be the kiss of death in the US? If the movie is amazing, if its protagonist should get a nomination, who cares if there are nude scenes or sex scenes? We’re judging cinema, not morals. I hope Shame finds a shrewd disributor, someone who can skyrocket a NC-17 movie….

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