Never mind the red carpets, the celebrity interviews or the post-gala parties. A huge part of what drives the annual Toronto International Film Festival – why it attracts some of the biggest names in cinema – is that it’s an action-packed market for buyers and sellers.
To judge by the announcements from the first six days, TIFF’s 2012 incarnation has generated a small bonanza of deal-making.
Among the most active players, according to industry observers, are Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.
The sister companies acquired the U.S. rights to Imogene, a comedy starring Kristen Wiig about a playwright who stages her own suicide attempt, and Stuart Blumberg’s Thanks for Sharing, the sex-addiction feature starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo. The latter deal is said to be worth $2-million.
They also picked up the North American distribution rights to Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, a contemporary retelling of the Shakespearean play.
Separately, Roadside has nabbed Canadian actor/director Sarah Polley’s acclaimed documentary Stories We Tell for an American release next year, while off-loading the distribution rights to Australia, Poland and Britain.
The U.S. rights to another well-received film, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers – about four young women revelling during a school break, have been snapped up by Annapurna Pictures. Not a huge surprise, since Annapurna is run by fast-rising producer Megan Ellison (the daughter of Oracle founder Larry Ellison). This year alone, Megan Ellison served as either producer or executive producer of six films, including Spring Breakers, The Master and Killing Them Softly.
L.A.-based Millennium Entertainment, a newish kid on the distribution block, has bought the North American rights to What Maisie Knew, a feature loosely based on the Henry James novel. It stars Julianne Moore and Alexander Skarsgard.
The rights to Mike Newell’s rethink of another literary classic, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, were taken by Outsource Media Group. The film stars Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter and Jeremy Irvine.
Meanwhile, Focus Features has reportedly anted up $3-million to acquire The Place Beyond the Pines, a crime drama starring Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper.
Other deals signed during TIFF include:
A $2-million pact for the rights to Aftershock , a horror film about a Chilean earthquake that played under TIFF’s Midnight Madness programming umbrella. The buyer is Dimension Films, owned by the Weinstein brothers, Harvey and Bob.
IFC, the Independent Film Channel, is said to have offered $1-million-plus for the U.S. rights to Byzantium, Neil Jordan’s vampire film, as well as securing the rights to director Jamie Babbit’s thriller Breaking the Girl.
Breaking Glass Pictures, a boutique releaser, has bought the rights to Out in the Dark, Michael Mayer’s film about two men, an Israeli and a Palestinian, who become lovers.
Among the first films sold at TIFF was Old Boy, Spike Lee’s remake of a South Korean suspense film, starring Josh Brolin. Its rights were purchased by FilmDistrict for an undisclosed sum.
As of Wednesday, the rights for a number of promising films were said to be still in negotiation. This list includes Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman , starring Michael Shannon and James Franco, and a Norwegian film, Kon-Tiki, which chronicles explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s remarkable crossing of the Pacific Ocean in 1947 on a simple wooden raft.