TORONTO — Without the Weinstein Co., the Toronto Film Festival would be pretty slow going.
Gotham company made two major buys on Sunday, scooping up all rights to the much-pursued “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show” and horror pic “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.” Both will get theatrical releases, the latter on the firm’s Dimension label.
Price for “Lane” was tabbed by insiders as coming in between $3 million and $4 million, while “Vaughn” was pegged at a surprisingly low figure of less than $3 million.
Move reunites Vaughn with the Weinsteins, who distributed thesp’s career-making “Swingers” 10 years ago. Harvey Weinstein and Michael Cole conducted the deal for TWC, while Debbie Klein repped Vaughn. TWC did not say when the pics would be released.
Vaughn attracted huge interest over the weekend; after his Friday screening, distribs mobbed producers, and thesp met with acquisition execs all day Saturday. Movie follows the personal and professional lives of a number of lesser-known standups, with Vaughn as a kind of Greek chorus narrating his take on the biz.
“Mandy Lane” is the helming debut of Jonathan Levine and the first pic produced and financed by Occupant Films, a shingle started two years ago by three recent grads of USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program. Pic was made on a six-figure budget.
Occupant partner and “Lane” producer Felipe Marino said the deal with the Weinsteins was reached in the early morning hours following pic’s midnight screening. “It pretty much happened immediately as soon as the movie screened, and they were pretty aggressive,” he said.
There was one other major acquisition announcement over the weekend: Werner Herzog’s Vietnam-era pic “Rescue Dawn,” which actually was bought before the festival and announced as an acquisition by MGM ahead of its Saturday preem.
But other acquisitions were slower to develop. Execs over the weekend gave mixed reviews to early buzz pics such as Christina Ricci starrer “Penelope” as well as youth-targeted “Love and Other Disasters.”
“Copying Beethoven,” the period pic directed by Agnieszka Holland (“Europa Europa”) and starring Ed Harris as the maestro, had its Toronto bow Sunday evening.Sidney Kimmel production has been considered one of the top candidates to land a notable deal.
Also catching buyers’ eyes on Sunday was the controversial British doc “Death of a President,” Gabriel Range’s mockumentary exploring the impact of the fictional assassination of President George W. Bush.
Only deal in place for the pic so far is a TV run on the U.K.’s Channel 4. The media hype has piqued the interest of domestic film distribs, all of which were expected at the unspooling. Tickets were fetching as much as $100 online before the showing.
Execs were quick to caution that fests tend to start slower, especially given how many viable pics come to the festival pre-bought, forcing execs to look harder — and take longer — to find the hidden gems.
“Festivals always seem like they’re slow for a few days, and then a few buys happen and everyone forgets about what they said earlier,” Picturehouse topper Bob Berney said.
Execs also point to a stalemate between producers and distribs over price as contributing to the slow start. “The movies are costing more, so the producers want more money, but the distributors increasingly feel they can’t afford to make such expensive acquisitions at a festival,” said one film exec.
Heightened expectations also may be leading to what is merely a perception of a slow marketplace.
“Things get hyped in advance; people are disappointed that they don’t meet the hype; then little by little, things emerge that are real, and you have a real market,” said Ira Deutchman, head of Emerging Pictures, which is repping Indian art pic “Vanajak.”
At Toronto, execs may be a little gun-shy after last year’s big purchases, such as “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” and “Trust the Man,” underperformed.
And given the way so many more distribs pre-buy before the fest, a big acquisition may be harder to come by because there are fewer potential hits with rights still available. Last year’s pickups “Thank You for Smoking” and “Little Miss Sunshine” are proving to be the exception more than the rule.
Said Lionsgate’s Tom Ortenberg: “We still go to every major festival looking for that next big film, but so far this weekend we haven’t seen it.”