In the days before the festival kicked off, many involved in the Toronto market predicted a very active acquisitions scene. So far that's been playing itself out, even if the buys have been mostly smaller grabs for low-hanging fruit, with more than a dozen deals being nailed down for films both in the program and out during the first few days.
Focus Features and Dimension Films have made the two highest-profile acquisitions of Toronto thus far. Focus secured U.S. rights to Derek Cianfrance’s highly anticipated drama “The Place Beyond the Pines” Sunday in predictably competitive bidding. Reviews for Cianfrance’s follow-up to “Blue Valentine” have been especially strong, and the returning presence of that film’s star, Ryan Gosling, was a preemptive magnet for eager buyers. CAA, which reps the writer-director, and WME Global repped the sale.
Focus has been very consistent on the festival circuit lately, typically leaving each fest with just a single film, such as “The Kids Are All Right,” “Pariah” and “For a Good Time, Call…” at the previous three Sundance Film Festivals. “Pines” is a good bet for them since it also stars rising star Bradley Cooper, though, anecdotally, critics are complaining about a planned 2013 release date for the film. That’s a good sign, since it indicates demand for another Gosling appearance on the big screen by the end of the year.
But Focus already has a packed fall, with “Anna Karenina” and “Hyde Park on Hudson” yet to open, and it will be pushing both for awards, along with Cannes and box office darling “Moonrise Kingdom” and Laika’s animated “ParaNorman.” There’s just no room for another campaign in there for a specialty division with a limited budget.
Yet Gosling has a gap and now won’t have been on screens at all in 2012. The first half of next year, however, is jammed with him: Warner Bros.’ “Gangster Squad” (which got bumped out of 2012 for reshoots following the terrible Colorado theaters murders), RADiUS-TWC’s “Only God Forgives” and the next Terrence Malick project are lined up for January, March and July, respectively. So unless Focus changes its mind to push for a release this year, moviegoers eager for “Pines” aren’t going to see it for a while, perhaps a fall 2013 opening to set up an awards run.
On Friday, Dimension jumped early on the Eli Roth-produced “Aftershock,” which is playing in Toronto’s Midnight Madness section. The $2-million deal gives the sleepy company a much-needed potential low-key surprise that would be a nice change from its uninspired homegrown films. CAA repped the sale on the film, which was co-written and directed by promising Chilean-born filmmaker Nicolas Lopez.
Smaller domestic acquisitions by Outsource Media Group (Mike Newell’s “Great Expectations”), Anchor Bay Films (Billy Bob Thornton’s “Jayne Mansfield’s Car”), MPI Pictures (Claude Miller’s “Therese Desqueyroux”), Film Movement (Catherine Corsini’s “Three Worlds”), Well Go USA (Jin-ho Hur’s “Dangerous Liaisons”), Paladin and 108 Media (Michel Gondry’s “The We and the I”), The Cinema Guild (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s “Leviathan”) and Strand Releasing (Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradise: Love”) peppered the opening days of the market. Many of those films had screened already at Berlin, Cannes or other festivals.
The Weinstein Co., which released “Blue Valentine” in 2010, went hard after Cianfrance’s “Pines,” and is surely looking for another high-profile title to take home. Sony Pictures Classics, which grabbed Robert Redford’s “The Company You Keep” out of Venice, may yet be open to more, while Lionsgate, Relativity, FilmDistrict and last year’s surprise CBS Films, which lunged for “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” in 2011, are eyeing the landscape closely. (FilmDistrict bought U.S. rights to the Spike Lee-directed non-program title "Oldboy" late last week.)
Among the films attracting strong buzz before the Venice-Telluride-Toronto triumverate launched that still need U.S. distribution are Sally Potter’s well-received “Ginger and Rosa” (Cinetic selling); Malick’s “To the Wonder” (CAA); Noah Baumbauch’s “Frances Ha” (UTA); Brian De Palma’s “Passion” (ICM Partners); Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” (CAA); Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children” (FilmNation); Peter Webber’s “Emperor” with Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox (CAA); Stuart Blumberg’s “Thanks for Sharing,” with Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo (WME, UTA); Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (Cinetic); Dante Ariola’s “Arthur Newman,” with Colin Firth and Emily Blunt (CAA, UTA); Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s Kristen Wiig comedy “Imogene” (UTA); Neil Jordan’s “Byzantium” (WME, CAA); and Andrew Adamson’s “Mr. Pip,” starring Hugh Laurie (UTA). Several have had premieres at Telluride and Venice, but a few, such as “Arthur Newman,” are awaiting their first public showings at Toronto.
By Tuesday, specialty houses IFC Films/Sundance Selects, Magnolia Pictures, Oscilloscope Laboratories, Millennium Entertainment and RADiUS-TWC should begin picking off titles, while new players Exclusive Releasing and A24 have yet to make a mark at Toronto (A24 picked up “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” before the festival began). Domestic deals for all of these films are a strong bet, though only a few may close them while the festival is still underway.
Regardless, with the wide array of specialty distributors and methods of release now available, the Toronto market should result in plenty of films finding new homes.