Toronto: 5 Lessons From the 2013 Festival
Toronto: How Harvey Weinstein's 90-Minute Pitch Won 'Can a Song Save Your Life?'
Temperatures may have been cooler than usual, but the 2013 edition of the Toronto Film Festival was red-hot when it came to dealmaking and headlines. And that's without accounting for the hundreds of thousands of dollars the Hollywood studios and leading indie distributors spent to launch their awards contenders movies in Toronto, known as the people's festival because of its proletariat audiences.
Here's a rundown of the five biggest lessons coming out of this year's fest:
1. The indie business is alive and well.
More money was plunked down at Toronto than at any other recent festival, with many deals yet to be announced. Focus Features paid $8 million for worldwide rights to Jason Bateman's feature directorial debut, the comedy Bad Words, while The Weinstein Co. ponied up $7 million for U.S. rights to John Carney's Can a Song Save Your Life?, starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, a follow-up to his 2006 film Once.
There were a slew of deals in the $2 million to $3 million range, an overall uptick. They include CBS Films' $3 million deal for Daniel Radcliffe's modern-day romance The F-Word and A24 Films' $2 million deal for the Tom Hardy drama Locke.
Flush from recent successes like The Butler, Harvey Weinstein's team made two other major Toronto acquisitions, paying $3 million to $4 million in a multi-territory deal for the relationship drama The Disappearance for Eleanor Rigby; Her and Him, starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy; and $2 million for U.S. rights to The Railway Man, starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.
Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate also had a major presence, paying several million dollars for the Jennifer Aniston black comedy Life of Crime, based on the novel The Switch by the late Elmore Leonard. Lionsgate and Roadside also are nearing a deal for David Gordon Green's Joe, starring Nicolas Cage.
Among the agencies, CAA was the big winner, sealing what's expected to be 10 Toronto deals.
2. If you want to watch a movie in peace, don't go to a press and industry screening.
Alex Billington, a movie blogger writing for FirstShowing.net, made news by calling 911 to complain that people were using their smart phones to text, e-mail and call during a midnight screening of the horror-thriller The Sacrament. His alleged concern -- piracy.
Billington called emergency dispatchers after getting nowhere with theater managers, who suspend the usual rules during Toronto. Since press and industry screenings are just that, theaters allow cell phone usage during a movie since buyers need to be able to discuss their reactions with colleagues (as well as get up and leave if they choose).
3. It's a great place to lay your Oscar cards on the table.
The advantage of launching an an awards hopeful at Toronto is that you learn quickly whether you are in -- or out.
Judging by this year's Toronto buzz o' meter, Fox Searchlight's 12 Years a Slave scored big as it heads into awards season -- besides winning over critics and Oscar handicappers, audiences voted to hand it TIFF's People's Choice Award. Warner Bros.' space epic Gravity continued to gather momentum, following its successful premiere in Venice.