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TORONTO ’99 ON THE SCENE: Buyers Considering Crop of Weekend Debuts — “Spring ,” “Days,” “Cheerlead

TORONTO '99 ON THE SCENE: Buyers Considering Crop of Weekend Debuts -- "Spring ," "Days," "Cheerlead

TORONTO '99 ON THE SCENE: Buyers Considering Crop of Weekend Debuts --
"Spring ," "Days," "Cheerleader," "Affair," "Traffic" and "Rage"

by Eugene Hernandez

As the business week begins in Toronto, a handful of festival films are in
the acquisitions spotlight. Celebrating their first public screening,
director Tom Gilroy, producers Jim McKay, Michael Stipe, Gill Holland, and
Paul Mezey, and actors Ned Beatty and Liev Schreiber gathered last night at
Remy’s to celebrate the premiere of “Spring Forward.” Since debuting on
Saturday, the movie has been the subject of distribution interest, according
to a source close to the movie. Reps are currently accepting offers. While
it may very well be complete coincidence, at last night’s party top execs
from at least four companies — Sony Classics, USA Films, Samuel Goldwyn, and
Fine Line — dropped by to pay their respects to the filmmaking team and a
few hung out late into the night.

Also having a busy day Sunday was Aaron Harnick‘s romantic comedy, “30 Days.”
The movie premiered on Saturday and overnight, energy built. Distributors
jammed the Sunday morning industry screening and additional screenings were
added at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. yesterday to accommodate interest. By the end of
the day, word from sources close to the film indicated that solid offers were
being made. However, countering the hype earlier in the day, one member of
the acquisitions community told indieWIRE that while buyers initially responded
strongly, seeking a potential acquisition, cooler heads prevailed as
companies took a second look.

Jamie Babbit‘s, “But I’m a Cheerleader,” premiered with a jammed showing
Sunday night. Audience response was very strong for her feature debut, but
early acquisitions response was clearly mixed. A group of buyers were less
than enthusiastic, post-screening. Filmmaker Babbit, producer Andrea
Sperling, and actors Natasha Lyonne (along with date Ed Furlong) and Clea
gathered at Monsoon for a premiere party — one source close to the
movie told indieWIRE that there was interest in the picture. A separate
source spread the word that Roger Ebert had praised the movie while exiting
the screening.

While Variety reported today (Monday) that the festival got off to an
“uncharacteristically sluggish start over the weekend with few available
films stirring excitement among buyers,” a few other films remain in focus
this morning. Today, Thom Geier of the Hollywood Reporter broke the news of
Sony Pictures Classics’ acquisition of Regis Wargnier‘s “East-West
(Est-Ouest), the movie premiered in Locarno and is screening here. Meanwhile,
both trades reported interest in Frederic Fonteyne‘s “A Pornographic Affair,”
with Fine Line, Trimark, Lions Gate, and Strand reportedly in pursuit.

In the Reporter, Geier added that Justin Kerrigan‘s “Human Traffic” was
nearing a deal last night. A film rep indicated as much in a conversation
with indieWIRE late last night, but could not confirm details.

Finally, the anticipated James D. Stern‘s feature, “All the Rage” is in talks
with distributors. An uninvolved acquisitions source told indieWIRE last
night that the movie is in negotiations with a buyer.

While buyers and sellers played biz games, on Sunday afternoon hundreds of
attendees boarded buses to take some time off at the annual Canadian Film
Centre barbecue, held on the spacious grounds of their Toronto compound. The
site was jammed with festival attendees and a few popular food and drink stations
for the large crowd. During the 12th annual event, Alliance Atlantis announced a
$1 million donation to The Canadian Film Centre‘s Fast Forward campaign, the
largest single donation in the history of the Centre.

The Canadian Fim Centre is Canada’s premiere training ground for today’s
writers, directors, editors and producers, explained Film Centre Chairman and
CEO Michael MacMillan, “Through this donation, Alliance Atlantis is honored
to support the Canadian Film Centre in nurturing some of our country’s best
creative talent.”

Another anticipated festival fete takes place tonight at the Royal Ontario Museum
as Alliance Atlantis hosts its annual gathering. Commenting on the festival
in today’s issue, the New York Times today singled out two Saturday night
soirees for its look at the Festival — the gala events for studio films
American Beauty” and “Mumford.” Capturing the frenzied party scene here in
Toronto, the Times added, “Toronto has emerged in the last decade, and
especially over the last five years, as among the most important and popular
stops on the international festival circuit, both as the premiere launching
pad for the Hollywood studios’ award-hopeful prestige films and,
increasingly, as a marketplace for smaller films searching for a distributor
or producers of medium-size films peddling foreign-release rights.” Both
aspects will remain in full effect through Sunday. Stay tuned…

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