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Toronto Deal Wrap: What Sold, What Hasn’t, and What’s Coming Up

Toronto Deal Wrap: What Sold, What Hasn't, and What's Coming Up

Deal-making at the Toronto International Film Festival got off to a quiet start this year, though more acquisitions should start hitting now that the fest is over.

Still at large are a number of buzzy acquisition titles, including
Drake Doremus’ Kristen Stewart vehicle “Equals” (which opened in Venice and is expected to go at a high figure), Rebecca Miller’s
warmly received Greta Gerwig comedy “Maggie’s Plan,” also boasting brilliant performances from Ethan Hawke (whose well-liked Chet Baker biopic “Born to be Blue” is also for sale) and Julianne Moore (who stars in Lionsgate’s true story “Freeheld,” which didn’t score with critics). From Michael Moore comes entertaining agit-prop doc “Where to
Invade Next,” for which WME’s Ari Emmanuel is demanding top dollar, even though it could be a tough sell outside the director’s Liberal fan base, and Moore would like to see a theatrical component for a 2015 release.

Will digital distributors with deep pockets sweep these titles up?
Netflix and Amazon were on the prowl on the fest circuit but have yet to announce any buys.

Paramount harbors Oscar hopes for its surprise pick-up, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s unusual R-rated stop-motion “Anomalisa,” which has been building buzz through Venice, Telluride and Toronto. Clearly the studio sees a way to market this well-reviewed story of an everyman in crisis (who says “fuck” a lot, and goes full-frontal as he has sex with a stranger in his Cincinnati hotel room), which cries out as an arthouse indie. Its hook? You’ve never seen a movie like this before.

READ MORE: Toronto Brings Oscar Schedule Changes, as the Strong Edge Out the Weak

Paramount, which has a slim release slate, also took Stephen Frears’ Meryl Streep-starrer “Florence Foster Jenkins,” which didn’t play the fest; buyers viewed footage at an early morning industry screening for buyers. Meanwhile his soft TIFF debut, Lance Armstrong biopic “The Program,” was picked up by Momentum Films for North America.

Originality also won the day elsewhere, with lower profile titles. Among several indie distributors to land pre-buys ahead of the fest is Alchemy, which opened Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s artfully arcane, body horror tone poem “Evolution.” The film played in the Vanguard slate, which also hosted Hadzihalilovic’s husband Gaspar Noe’s “Love,” scooped by Alchemy out of Cannes. The sexually graphic 3D romance alienated viewers on the Riviera, but played well at the Ryerson for its Toronto premiere. It’s going to be a must-see for extreme moviegoers when it opens stateside this fall.

Another extreme movie, Ilya Naishuller’s badass video actioner “Hardcore,” told entirely from the GoPro POV of a cyborg named Henry, was acquired by new distributoSTX Entertainment. They got good news indeed when “Hardcore” won the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award. It’s produced by Timur Bekmambetov. See unusual trailer below. 

READ MORE: From Venice to Telluride, Buyers Get Busy Before Toronto

Another 3D film that made its North American premiere at TIFF, Wim Wenders’ “Every Thing Will Be Fine” went to IFC Films ahead of the festival, in spite of middling reviews in Berlin.

A24 also had a good festival, acquiring Patricia Rozema’s survival drama “Into the Forest,” starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as sisters off the grid, and buzzy horror film “February.” The indie distributor got a serious Oscar boost for “Room,” which won the TIFF People’s Choice Award. Why? Because so many past winners have been not only Oscar contenders but winners. While “Room” came out strong from Telluride and played well in Toronto, this is a sign that it has the right stuff to be a hit.

READ MORE: ‘Room’ Wins Toronto Audience Award, Awards Bellwether

Promising acquisitions also emerged on the television side, with The Weinstein Company grabbing “Everest” director Baltasar Kormakur’s Icelandic noir series “Trapped” for US TV. HBO also sealed joint deals to air documentaries “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” (to be released in theaters by The Orchard) and Laurie Anderson’s “Heart of a Dog” (opening from Abramorama before its HBO debut).

Below, we’ve rounded up all the Toronto pickups so far.

Magnolia Pictures – “Sunset Song,” Norwegian Oscar submission “The Wave”
A24 – “Into the Forest,” “February”
Paramount – “Anomalisa,” “Florence Foster Jenkins” (pre-buy)
Kino Lorber – Guatelmalan Oscar submission “Ixcanul,” “Neon Bull”
Alchemy – “Evolution,” “Zeroville” (market title)
Focus World – “Mr. Right”
Bleecker Street – “Eye in the Sky”
Momentum Pictures – “The Program,” “Forsaken”
Oscilloscope – “Ma Ma,” Colombian Oscar submission “Embrace of the Serpent”
IFC Films – “Pele: Birth of a Legend” market title, “Every Thing Will Be Fine”
The Weinstein Company – TV series “Trapped”
STX Entertainment – “Hardcore”
Satine Films – “The Ardennes”
The Orchard – “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble”
Strand– “Summertime”
Search Engine/Honora – “Kilo Two Bravo”
Sony Pictures Classics – “Land of Mine”
IFC Midnight – “Baskin”

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