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As ‘Jackie’ and ‘Colossal’ Lure Buyers, Toronto Turns Into a Waiting Game

A deal for Pablo Larrain's "Jackie" starring Natalie Portman is imminent, but the marketplace remains quiet as the Toronto Film Festival approaches the halfway point.

Natalie Portman and Anne Hathaway.

Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie” roused what’s been a sleepy market at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. Starring Natalie Portman as the former First Lady, the film covers a four-day period that begins just before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and Portman turns in an Oscar-worthy performance that received a standing ovation at the film’s screening Sunday.

Fox Searchlight has first and last look on the movie, but distributors also understood to be in the hunt include A24. EuropaCorp, French mogul Luc Besson’s U.S.-based upstart led by former Universal co-chairman Marc Shmuger, made initial inquiries but stopped short of a bid. CAA and Insiders are handling the sale.

Also generating heat is Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo’s genre-defying monster movie “Colossal” starring Anne Hathaway. The movie follows the alcoholic Gloria (Hathaway), who discovers her movements in a playground control a giant monster terrorizing South Korea. In an IndieWire interview Saturday, Hathaway called the movie a “sci-fi companion” to “Rachel Getting Married.” CAA and Voltage handle sales for the movie, which co-stars Jason Sudeikis and Dan Stevens.

"Their Finest"

“Their Finest”

There’s also two winners out of the UK: “Their Finest” is director Lone Scherfig’s (“An Education”) period comedy-drama about a group of filmmakers making an inspirational film to help boost morale during the World War II Blitz in London. The movie stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, and Bill Nighy. Director William Oldroyd’s Vitorian tragedy “Lady Macbeth” is also attracting interest, based on very strong reviews and an impressive performance from newcomer Florence Pugh.

Still, this doesn’t look like a great year for buyers. So far there’s been two very small acquisitions with BH Tilt’s purchase of Greg McLean’s “The Belko Experiment,” and Feng Xiogang’s “I Am Not Madame Bovary,” both of which likely closed before the festival but held off announcement for the films’ premieres.

Directed by Feng Xiaogang Starring Fan Bingbing

“I Am Not Madame Bovary”

One explanation is the festival market has shifted toward pre-buys, with distributors focused on launching movies rather than hunting for deals. And there’s less competition: Alchemy went out of business, The Weinstein Company’s RADiUS has yet to relaunch, Broad Green shifted toward productions, and Relativity Media’s new shingle has been quiet.

“I feel like it’s going to take a few more days before you start to see some sales,” said Paul Davidson, executive VP of film and TV at The Orchard. “Like other distributors, we’re also laser focused on premiering three films at the festival.”

I am Not Your Negro

On the documentary front, titles attracting offers include Errol Morris’s “The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography,” and Kasper Collin’s “I Call Him Morgan,” about jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his wife Helen, which also played at Venice and Telluride, and will screen at the New York Film Festival. Raoul Peck’s doc, “I Am Not Your Negro,” about James Baldwin’s last and unfinished book on Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and race in America is also generating interest among buyers.

One distributor source believes that plenty of deals will close before the end of the festival. “A lot of people are laying low, looking for bargains and waiting to hear what the press says,” the source said. “Sellers are holding out because there’s been a lot of big money being thrown around, but there’s nothing big enough to throw big money at, except for a couple of movies.”

 

Additional reporting by Anne Thompson.

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