TIFF remains one of the biggest distribution markets in the world, and with the festival now over, some distributors are walking away with some big prizes. Focus Features took “The Place Beyond The Pines,” Lionsgate and/or Roadside Attractions bought a wealth of pictures, including “Imogene,” “Thanks For Sharing” and “Stories We Tell,” Anchor Bay landed Rob Zombie‘s “The Lords Of Salem,” IFC Films grabbed “Frances Ha” Magnolia won “The Brass Teapot” Dimension picked up “Aftershock,” and Sony Pictures Classics took “Wadjda,” and these are just a few of the deals that went down at the festival.
But like the skinny kids picked last for the team, there’s still a few films standing around on the sidelines, including some that we’d figured would spark off bidding wars, which were seemingly dampened by disappointed critical reactions. Discussions are undoubtedly still ongoing, and we’d expect to see many of these films picked up in the weeks and months ahead. But to close off TIFF, we’ve picked out five (technically six) high-profile pictures that are still looking for distributors, and examined why they weren’t snapped up faster, and where they might eventually land. Read on below.
“To The Wonder”
Of all the expectations mounted upon the new Terrence Malick film, “To The Wonder,” a critical evisceration wasn’t one of them, especially given that it came only months after “The Tree Of Life” got a Best Picture nomination and came close to broaching the Sight & Sound Top 100 poll. That film was greeted by boos at Cannes, but it was nothing compared to the vitriolic reviews of its follow-up from many quarters (although we, and many others, liked it a great deal). As such, it’s not wildly surprising that ‘Wonder’ has yet to find a home. It feels that, given the reviews, someone like Fox Searchlight, who took “The Tree Of Life,” are probably out of the running at this point, given that the ‘Wonder’ is unlikely to come anywhere near its predecessor’s relatively modest box office haul ($13 million domestic). But there’s still money to be made for a smart distributor — the big-name cast will bring in a certain crowd (particularly if word spreads of the film’s sexual content…), Malick has a certain fanbase, and curious cinephiles will want to see for themselves. Reports that UK distributor StudioCanal are considering sending the film direct to DVD are bogus, and in the U.S. it’d be a smart pick up for someone like Oscilloscope, who acquired the Malick-esque “Wuthering Heights” after TIFF last year, and who could use a high-profile buy to show that they’re still in the game after the passing of founder Adam Yauch earlier in the year. We expect it won’t be too long before the film finds a home.
Speaking of critically derided features from respected auteurs, “Passion” got a pretty poisonous reception at both Venice and TIFF. A few De Palma die hards were on board, but many outright loathed the film (our man on the ground walked out), or were a bit nonplussed, like our Venice review — which came from a big fan of the filmmaker. Either way, few find it to be much of a step up from the dismal “The Black Dahlia” and “Redacted,” so again, the film not finding distribution yet isn’t an enormous surprise. In a way, the cast aren’t hugely helpful — Noomi Rapace isn’t really proven as a solo lead (“Prometheus” wasn’t exactly sold on her), and Rachel McAdams can be a big draw, but less so when she’s outside her comfort zone, as she is here. That said, given the murder and sapphism, it’s still a reasonably commercial proposition, and while hopes of the film landing at a mini-major like Lionsgate, let alone a studio, are probably slim by now, we think a genre-minded distributor with a VOD leaning — someone like Magnolia, if they weren’t put off by the terrible $65,000 gross of “Redacted,” admittedly a more difficult sell, or even Anchor Bay, could probably make a decent amount of money on the film. Don’t expect it to skip theaters, but a simultaneous theatrical/on-demand rollout is probably the best bet for something like this.“Ginger & Rosa”
While not overwhelmingly adored, Sally Potter‘s coming-of-age tale “Ginger & Rosa” was much better received than the two films above, and has some real admirers — we called it one of our favorite films at Telluride. But perhaps because its bow in the mountains meant that the buzz peaked too early, the film’s yet to find a distributor, although it’s going to be released in the U.K. next month, courtesy of Artificial Eye. While Potter’s work doesn’t tend to be audience friendly, this is probably her most accessible film, and there’s enough recognizable members of the cast — Annette Bening, Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola, Oliver Platt — that there’s plenty of marquee value to be had. But the biggest selling point is the performance by fast-rising young star Elle Fanning, in what’s arguably her first real lead role since breaking out in “Somewhere” and “Super 8.” We’re not sure if she’s a box office draw exactly, but given the ecstatic reviews for her performance — even from those cooler on the film — it’s possible that “Ginger and Rosa” might tap into the same kind of audience that saw “An Education” take a healthy $12 million three years ago. As such, someone like Sony Pictures Classics, who had “An Education,” might be a good home for “Ginger and Rosa,” although the company have been on something of a buying spree of late. Still, there’s sure to be some room on their 2013 slate, and if not, IFC Films or someone similar could surely make some coin from the film.
It’s becoming a bit of a refrain in these parts to question why “Laurence Anyways,’ the latest from Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan, hasn’t yet found a U.S. home. It’s an unruly, scrappy and overlong film, to be sure (160 minutes, which may be the major reason for it failing to get a distributor so far), but one that picked up some strong reviews at both its Cannes premiere and at TIFF, where it also won the festival award for Best Canadian Feature FIlm. Presumably the length, and the $70,000 gross for Dolan’s previous feature last year, “Heartbeats,” are putting audiences off, and of all the films here, this feels like it’s most at risk of slipping between the cracks. But that TIFF award could theoretically help, and if Dolan’s willing to trim the film down, it’ll become a lot more palatable to audiences. There’s certainly an audience out there for the film, especially if a distributor targets the film to the LGBT crowd — look at “Weekend,” which IFC took to a $500,000 gross last year.
“Arthur Newman”/”Greetings From Tim Buckley”
We’re cheating a little bit here, but there’s one thing that unites these two films — they’re both pictures that screened after the crucial first weekend of the festival, when press and industry are starting to filter out of Toronto. As such, neither got a huge amount of attention, overshadowed by the big premieres from the first half of the festival, and neither have yet been picked up. “Arthur Newman” is the starrier of the pair, led as it is by recent Oscar winner Colin Firth, and It Girl Emily Blunt (who was the biggest name in indie sleeper “Your Sister’s Sister“). But the film was very tepidly received across the board, and neither are necessarily home-run draws — Firth picture “Main Street” took only $2500 when Magnolia released it last September. It’ll find a home somewhere, but it may take a while, and don’t expect it to get the widest of arthouse releases. “Greetings From Tim Buckley” may have a better chance. The film wasn’t raved about, exactly, but reviews were fairly respectable. And while it doesn’t have the big names, it does have some rising ones, in the shape of “Gossip Girl” star Penn Badgley and British actress Imogen Poots. Neither are proven draws by themselves, but they’d likely bring in a degree of press, and musos are likely to turn up to the first proper Jeff Buckley biopic (although it might help if his name was in the title…). The ship’s probably sailed on a Sony Pictures Classics or a Focus taking the film — the reviews aren’t quite strong enough for that. But Magnolia or IFC or Oscilloscope might well yet step in.
Honorable Mentions: Other films still looking for a home include Michael Winterbottom‘s “Everyday,” Venice favorite “A Hijacking,” Golden Lion winner “Pieta,” Nick Cassavettes‘ “Yellow,” Tommy Lee Jones war drama “Emperor,” critically-savaged Hugh Laurie vehicle “Mr. Pip,” Laurent Cantet‘s “Foxfire” and Indian epic “Midnight’s Children.”