For the enterprising mini-majors, studio subsidiaries and indie start-ups, there are three key markets to acquire films: There’s Sundance, where only a handful of movies come with distribution already sorted, and everyone hopes to uncover the next “Little Miss Sunshine” or “Precious.” There’s Cannes, which not only has a huge film market (often concerned with pre-sales as much as finished movies), but debuts some of the biggest international films of the year.
And then there’s the Toronto International Film Festival. Though it’s not quite as prestigious as some of its European counterparts, it’s arguably the biggest, and maybe even the most important, festival of the year, with the widest ranging and largest line-up of competitors, one that takes in everything from micro-budget indies to $100 million star-packed pictures like “Cloud Atlas.”
Many of the films there this year are already with studios or distributors who hope to use a bow at the festival as a launching pad for box office or awards season glory (and ideally, both). But there’s more than a few films there without a home at present, and as the start of TIFF draws closer, we’ve picked out 5 that look like they could inspire some bidding wars. If you ran a distributor, what would be on your shopping list? Let us know in the comments section below.
“The Place Beyond The Pines”
Given that it was a tough, bleak indie romance released in the holiday season against much bigger competition and it failed to get much awards attention (bar a Best Actress nomination for Michelle Williams), $10 million at the box office wasn’t a bad result at all for “Blue Valentine,” especially given that it was made for only $1 million or so. As such, director Derek Cianfrance‘s next film was always going to get a certain amount of curiosity from buyers. But given the cast he’s put together for “The Place Beyond The Pines,” the film should be one of the hottest properties on the festival circuit this year. After all, it toplines two of the hottest stars of the moment, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. And with supporting actresses Rose Byrne and Eva Mendes, plus “Chronicle” breakout Dane DeHaan, and character-actor favorites like Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood and Ben Mendelsohn rounding out the cast, this is a tremendous ensemble . The film, a generation-spanning crime drama about the clash between a cop-turned-politician (Cooper) and a motorcycle stunt rider (Gosling), is still an unknown quantity at this point. And we have to say, that the film’s only fall festival appearance so far appears to be at TIFF does raise some eyebrows. But given the talent involved, we’ll certainly be lining up, as will potential distributors. Even if the film is a misfire, the presence of Gosling and Cooper on a poster is good for something.
After the monumental success of “Bridesmaids,” pretty much everyone in town wanted to work with Kristen Wiig, but her final year on “Saturday Night Live” meant that she only had a limited amount of time to make movies (less of an issue now; she left the show in May, and has been filming Ben Stiller‘s “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty” ever since). But the one she used her time on, in the end, was something of a passion project — “Imogene,” which follows a playwright who fakes a suicide to get her ex-boyfriend’s attention, and is forced her to move in with her mother. Penned by relative newcomer Michelle Morgan, and directed by “American Splendor” duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, it seems to be significantly darker than “Bridesmaids,” and they’ve landed something of a coup with the presence of Annette Bening as Wiig’s mother, with Matt Dillon, “Glee” star Darren Criss, Nathan Corddry and Natasha Lyonne making up the rest of the eclectic cast. There’s a good premise here, and the team-up of Bening and Wiig alone should make it a highly attractive prospect for distributors. One possible stumbling block — last year’s TIFF entry “Friends With Kids,” which reunited most of the “Bridesmaids” cast, did fairly decently, but didn’t set the world alight with a $7 million gross. Is that the ceiling on this? Or could an enterprising company take it higher?
Everyone likes a surprise, and perhaps the biggest this fall is “Frances Ha.” Greta Gerwig had mentioned that she’d quietly shot a film which she’d written the script for, but what the indie starlet neglected to mention is that the film had been written with and directed by Noah Baumbach. Revolving around an aspiring dancer (Gerwig) and her relationship with her best friend, the black-and-white film also features “Girls” breakout Adam Driver and Sting‘s daughter Mickey Sumner in the cast, and it has already earned favorable words out of Telluride (including a positive review from us). And given the lower budget, it might well be a canny acquisition, even if none of Baumbach’s films to date have done great business — “The Squid and the Whale” remains the top grosser, at $7.3 million. But if it continues strongly in Toronto and pleases audiences the way it did in Colorado, then it might well inspire a bit of a bidding war.
“To The Wonder”
For all the critical plaudits it inspired, “The Tree Of Life” was not a wild success in the U.S. While we’re sure they weren’t expecting blockbuster business, Fox Searchlight must have been hoping for a little more than the $13 million that the film took in, only a touch more than “The New World” made, and a third of the gross of “The Thin Red Line” way back in 1998. And while a new film by Terrence Malick is always going to cause excitement among buyers, after it premiered in Venice, potential distributors might be a bit cautious. Granted, the film has already sold out worldwide, with the U.S. the lone territory left up for grabs, but the film’s divisive reception in Venice will give those holding the checkbooks a bit of pause. Not to mention that the nearly dialogue-free film will be a potentially tougher sell to audiences than “The Tree Of Life.” However, with a running time under two hours, and a more accessible, contemporary setting, that could make the more experimental edges a bit easier to sell. And having Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko lead your film doesn’t hurt either. And if it plays better in Toronto than it did in Venice, this one could certainly become a very hot ticket.
Brian De Palma‘s last film, “Redacted,” made a less-than-glorious $65,000 in theaters on its domestic release. But his last decade of work aside, the filmmaker has plenty of box office hits on his side, including “Mission: Impossible,” “The Untouchables,” “Carrie,” “Scarface” and “Dressed To Kill.” And it’s the latter in particular that gives hope to “Passion” (a remake of the 2010 Kristin Scott-Thomas-starring French-language thriller “Love Crime“), a return to the kind of movie that he made his name on, and that has plenty of stuff to bring in crowds: principally, the ever-reliable combo of sex and murder. In a landscape where the De Palma-esque “Black Swan” made $300 million worldwide, we’re sure plenty of distributors will be curious, especially with the ever-popular Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in the lead roles. Now, we’re not quite sure who would actually taking this one — Fox Searchlight, Focus and The Weinstein Company might turn their noses up, while someone like Magnolia would feel a bit small. But unless the film is a “Black Dahlia“-level disaster, this should get some degree of attention, and may even sell ahead of TIFF on the back of its Venice premiere later this week.