Visitors to next week's Toronto International Film Festival can take a break by visiting the city's fantastic Hockey Hall of Fame. But there should be no shortage of elbowing, body checks and brawling in the festival's theaters, where an unusually large number of high-profile movies will be fighting for distribution deals.
The Cannes and Sundance cinematic gatherings may attract more media attention as sales markets, but Toronto delivers a steady stream of significant deals for films financed outside the studio system; in the last few years Toronto has yielded distribution pacts for "The Hurt Locker," "The Wrestler" and "The Visitor."
At this year's festival, running Sept. 8 to 18, buyers from the specialized film divisions such as Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Lionsgate and other distributors will be forced to sprint from screening to screening to judge the merits of at least two dozen new features.
The bidding has been turning more aggressive. In recent months, a number of these distributors have been buying up movies either sight unseen or in the earliest stages of production -- as was the case with the upcoming releases "The Wettest County in the World" (starring Shia LaBouef), Ron Howard's race-car movie "Rush" and Ryan Gosling's crime drama "Only God Forgives."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, September 03, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Toronto Film Festival: A Sept. 1 article in the Calendar section about movies at the Toronto International Film Festival seeking distribution deals listed CAA as the sales agent for "Winnie." The sales agent is Film Bridge International.
In addition to the completed movies playing in the festival, buyers also will look at footage from unfinished productions, such as "Heroes of Nanking" (starring Christian Bale), "Predisposed" (with Jesse Eisenberg) and Stephen Frears' "Lay the Favorite."
"There are lots of good movies with a lot of good talent," said John Flock, whose W2 Media will be in Toronto looking to buy domestic rights for his new distribution company. He believes the plethora of fresh features could drive down sales prices. "I don't think it's a great thing for the financiers and the filmmakers. But it will be good for the indie distributors."
Here's a look at some of Toronto's more significant acquisition titles:
Logline: A set of global, interlocking stories about sexual relationships.
Plus: Strong cast (Rachel Weisz, Jude Law and Anthony Hopkins) under the tutelage of director Fernando Mereilles ("The Constant Gardener") makes for a compelling hook.
Minus: Interwoven stories ("21 Grams") can fall flat.
Sales agent: UTA
Logline: Actor John Barrymore (Christopher Plummer) revives his 1920 Broadway role in "Richard III."
Plus: Role brought Plummer a Tony on Broadway.
Minus: Perhaps a bit too theatrical for a film.
Sales agent: Film Sales Co.
"The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best"
Logline: Two musicians give their music career one last try.
Plus: Romances set against clubs ("Once") can sing a happy tune.
Minus: If the music isn't good, movie might not be.
Sales agent: ICM
Logline: A dark comedy about a man-child still living at home whose romantic forays go badly.
Plus: Director Todd Solondz ("Happiness") tackles middle-class malaise in a story that could be less misanthropic than his other movies.
Minus: The director still has a keen ability to offend.
Sales agent: Goldcrest Films
"Friends With Kids"
Logline: A circle of married and single friends begins to unravel when some couples start having children.
Plus: Jennifer Westfeldt's ("Kissing Jessica Stein") directorial debut features a strong ensemble cast, including partner Jon Hamm.
Minus: Premise has more potential for platitudes than actual insight.
Sales agent: Cinetic Media
Logline: A black-and-white look at Brazilian soccer star Heleno de Freitas.
Plus: The world loves soccer, and we need a good movie about the sport.
Minus: May not be the next "Bend It Like Beckham."
Sales agent: ICM
Logline: A mercenary (Willem Dafoe) is dispatched to the wilderness by a mysterious biotech company to search for the last surviving Tasmanian tiger.
Plus: A thriller with environmental implications, Dafoe's performance could make it a standout.
Minus: Needs to reach well beyond the Greenpeace crowd.
Sales agent: UTA
Logline: Psychological drama starring Clive Owen as a helpless father trying to protect his daughter from a faceless intruder.
Plus: Filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo ("28 Weeks Later") is known for his edgy take on human emotions.
Minus: The horror genre is a bit bloated lately.
Sales agent: UTA
Logline: Emile Hirsch plots to kill his mother, with the assistance of a hit man (Matthew McConaughey).
Plus: Good black comedies -- "Fargo," "Bad Santa" -- can deliver.
Minus: Director William Friedkin ("Bug," "The Hunted") not exactly hot.
Sales agent: CAA
Logline: A newlywed revisits her family home, and the memories aren't at all pleasant.
Plus: From writer-director Eduardo Sanchez, part of the "Blair Witch Project" team.
Minus: From writer-director Eduardo Sanchez, part of the "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" team.
Sales agent: WME
Logline: An older man (Hugh Laurie) has an affair with a neighbor's young daughter (Leighton Meester).