With the Toronto International Film Festival entering its last few days, the acquisitions market continues at a pretty steady clip. By mid-week, distributors had had a chance to check out most of what was on display, including all of the world premieres, and had made their plays to pocket what they could. Those negotiations are paying off now.
UPDATE: This article has been brought up-to-date through Monday morning, Sept. 17.
"The Place Beyond the Pines," which Focus picked up for somewhere in the $3-million range, has thus far been the highest-ticket purchase, and Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions grabbed the most movies. But the indie film landscape has clearly made room for plenty of filmmakers, financiers and distributors to find each other and agree on ways to get these films in front of audiences.
Below is a comprehensive list of the titles that have found homes through Friday afternoon — more than two-dozen — broken down both by agency and by distributor. Additional deals are on the way, so check back as the list fills out further. Interspersed with the films below, members of the sales agency teams that handled the bargaining describe the tone and intricacies of the market as they saw it this week.
“The festival met everyone’s expectations,” says CAA’s Roeg Sutherland and Micah Green. “The market for high-end commercial films is stronger than ever, driven by an abundance of well-capitalized distributors looking for third-party projects. All of our broad-appeal films were sold prior to their premieres in Toronto ('Looper,' 'End of Watch,' 'The Master,' 'Seven Psychopaths,' 'The Company You Keep,' 'Spring Breakers'). In Toronto, we experienced a surge in interest in smaller, cast-driven specialty films. The market for these more execution-dependent projects has rebounded in the last year due to the strong performance of films such as 'Bachelorette' and 'Margin Call' on VOD and iTunes. It feels like we are witnessing a land grab of new and existing distributors positioning themselves to capitalize on the impending revenue spike from emerging digital platforms.”
THE GERSH AGENCY
“Toronto was productive for buyers and sellers,” says Gersh partner Jay Cohen. “The independent market is strong but films need to be made for a price with the appropriate cast based on the appropriate genre.With the increase in Premium/Ultra VOD deals, buyers are still experimenting and learning how to best monetize the market so the MG’s are still a bit lower than expectations.”
“This year’s festival hosted many of the usual players, along with several newcomers,” says ICM Partners head of international and independent film Jessica Lacy. “Even though sales were active, a lot of deals will close after the festival. Since they have become more complex, there are a number of factors to consider and it’s about making the right deal for our clients. We are set to close several over the course of the next few weeks.”
NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA
“It was a very healthy market for both traditional theatrical releases and newer VOD-driven models,” says Paradigm agent Ben Weiss. “Goldwyn saw the opportunity for the James Cromwell drama ‘Still’ to find its audience with a traditional awards-style release. ‘Reincarnated,’ on the other hand, as a more youth-driven film, is an example of a film that will be most successful with an innovative plan that combines VOD, theatrical and digital distribution. Distributors are recognizing the need to be specific and analytical with their acquisitions; as sales agents, it is critical to be able to deliver the content and negotiate the most effective deals for our films.”
“The pace and rhythm of Toronto this year was slow and steady with less irrational exuberance and more measured business-like deal making,” says Submarine co-president Josh Braun. “The two closed deals (“Casting By” and “No Place on Earth”) played out methodically, and we reached agreements where both sides were very happy without late-night bidding wars. The two deals that are nearly finalized (“The Lords of Salem” and “Love, Marilyn”) each had a bit more drama but more or less played out in a similar fashion.”
UTA INDEPENDENT FILM GROUP
“Toronto proved to be dynamic this year both as a festival and as a market, with significant sales spread out across a real diversity of films and distributors,” said Rena Ronson, co-head of UTA Independent Film Group. “What was most interesting was seeing the balance between traditional theatrical deals and the day-and-date deals. There is more innovation required than ever in getting films in front of audiences, and it was reassuring to come to Toronto and see the industry embrace the range of possibilities that exist for so many titles.”
“Toronto delivered on every level,” says head of WME Global Graham Taylor. “From the discovery of new talent and auteurs returning with new offerings to the licensing of distribution rights of films both big and small, it was dynamic and exciting — and good for the movie business.”
“Buyers were a little more guarded, but there was still business going on, and as usual a lot of deals will close after the festival once everyone's priority titles are bought and sold,” says XYZ partner Nate Bolotin. “In the aggregate, it would be great to know how many films that sold are actually profitable movies and if the budgets for indie films are justifiable given the North American deals conducted. Festival-driven genre films generally don't have much difficulty finding a buyer and a good deal, as long as the finance plan was smart and budgets were reverse engineered.”
Click through to the next page to see the acquisitions listed by distributor...