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TORONTO ’99 ON THE SCENE: The Canadian Carnival Begins

TORONTO '99 ON THE SCENE: The Canadian Carnival Begins

TORONTO '99 ON THE SCENE: The Canadian Carnival Begins

by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

The carnival atmosphere arrived in Toronto last night (Thursday), big time.
Only at a festival of such scope and breadth as the Toronto International Film
would an actual carnival on opening night seem appropriate — organizers
secured the entire SkyDome for its kick-off, and filled the expanse with carnival
rides (including a ferris wheel) cotton candy & popcorn vendors, numerous themed
food stations, a full-sized performance stage, clowns, bars, and candid live
images projected on the venue’s immense video screen. This was a festival party
unlike any I have ever attended.

Earlier in the day, there was a definite “first day of summer camp” feeling that
descended upon attendees. Everyone seemed to be in a friendly mood, so much so
that even checking in at the Park Hyatt festival headquarters quickly turned
into a two-hour event — running into friends and colleagues who only gather
en masse, in this large a group, a few times each year — Sundance, Cannes,
and now, Toronto.

The industry were already buzzing as journalists, buyers, sellers, filmmakers
and others checked in on day one. Today, the big story was word that
Canadian-based Lions Gate may be up for sale. Thom Geier broke the story
in The Hollywood Reporter and by the time word got around, one publicist
was asking indieWIRE if the rumors that they have been bought were true.
We corrected the speculation, referring to Geier’s piece. Lions Gate, which
this week confirmed its acquisition of Kevin Smith‘s Toronto premiere, “Dogma,”
is a distributor and producer of film and television. Geier pegged the
company price tag at $80 million.

Over in the Rogers Industry Centre down the hall, a few folks gathered near
the entrance to sneak a peak at a new website aimed at the Toronto festival’s
industry attendees. Created by Film Finders and Showbiz Data, the new site
is a resource for buyers and sellers, offering regularly updated details on
rights availablities, contact info, and project histories for festival films.
indieWIRE got a peak at the private — industry only — site, it is sure to
become an invaluable resource for biz attendees who decided to bring along
their laptop computers.

Even though the festival wouldn’t have its first full-day of screenings until
today (Friday), the fourth floor of the Park Hyatt — home to many of the
publicity firms — was already buzzing despite the fact that many journalists
had yet to check in. PR reps were hanging out in the hallway outside the press
check-in area hyping early media screenings and hoping to secure some buzz
going into the first weekend — producer’s reps got into the act as well,
promoting their flicks as the hottest tickets in town, while at the same
time polling us on what would be the hottest films of the festival. Without
a doubt its simply to early to tell — while eveyone has a short list of
films they are anticipating, buzz based on actual screenings will begin
this weekend.

As some indie industry-types mingled and chatted, others simply got down
to business on day one. While indieWIRE was chatting it up with flacks and
folks in the lobby of the Park Hyatt we ran into John Cooper and Rebecca Yeldham
from the Sundance programming team. The pair stopped briefly for a quick
greeting and a bit of catch-up, but before long they were eagerly rushing off
to an afternoon screening. Hustling to a separate showing later in the day
was Sony Classics VP Dylan Leiner who paused briefly on the Bloor St. sidewalk
for a brief chat. With a cell phone headset plugged into his ear, the exec
politely excused himself, admitting that he was a few minutes late for a
screening. With such enthusiasm, the event was literally off and running.

[indieWIRE will be on the scene throughout the entire Toronto International
Film Festival, publishing daily, including weekends. Get the latest in our
special Toronto ’99 section:]

indieWIRE’s Toronto ’99 On The Scene.

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