Films struggle for US distribution at Toronto Festival


Studio pictures already have deals in place, but for the rest - including Michael Caine - the recess
When the Toronto International film festival (TIFF) began last Thursday, there was much talk about an unusually high number of the festival's features that had yet to secure all-important North American distribution. That state still applies. Despite all the major studios being in attendance at TIFF, no big deals have emerged so far.

The films attracting the most coverage over the weekend were military-intelligence satire The Men Who Stare at Goats and Jason Reitman's long-haul comedy Up in the Air, both starring George Clooney, along with the Coen brothers' A Serious Man. All three films already have distribution in place. Titles that generated buzz before the festival however, including Get Low and Harry Brown, starring Robert Duvall and Michael Caine respectively, or Oliver Parker's Dorian Gray, have yet to be snapped up.

With acquisition money lower than in past years because of the economic downturn, there has so far been little sign of the kind of competition among buyers that characterised the booming indie market of the past decade. According to Variety, industry figures are speculating that "the old indie model - scrape together financing and then secure a US distribution deal after a festival opening - is becoming outmoded."

The market might warm up over the course of the festival, especially as many films have yet to screen widely. The Hollywood Reporter suggests that such sluggishness is par for the course: "Acquisitions at Toronto are historically slow the first weekend, as studio fare tends to occupy attention and primetime slots."

Elsewhere, the controversy over the TIFF strand focusing on films from Tel Aviv has taken another turn with the mayor of the Israeli city taking the opportunity of his visit to Toronto to hit back at critics. "If they protest, let them protest," Ron Huldai told Israeli film-makers on Sunday. "We are for freedom of speech."

Source: Ben Walters /Guardian-UK

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