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Canuck fests hit highs and lows

Toronto sees record sales, Montreal events a mixed bag

Montreal had one successful film festival of the three that unspooled this fall, meanwhile the Toronto Intl. Film Festival, the dominant Canuck event, capped off the year with record sales totaling $52 million, organizers announced Tuesday.

Figures — which include $29 million in domestic sales and $23 million of international sales — were tallied from confidential surveys sent to fest participants.

“Today’s survey results confirm Toronto’s status as a top-tier festival for international business and deal-making,” said Noah Cowan, fest co-director. “International buyers clearly recognize Toronto as one of the world’s premier festivals to discover and buy the best cinema from across the globe.”

In addition to films from the U.S. (“Thank You for Smoking,” “Heart of the Game”), Canada (opening-night pic “Water” and “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey”), titles from Brazil (“The House of Sand”), China (“Sunflower”), Germany (“Summer in Berlin,” “The White Masai”) and Spain (“Iberia”) were snapped up during the fest.

The 2005 event ran Sept. 8-17 and screened 335 films, 109 of them world preems.

Meanwhile, the 34th Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema released figures showing robust ticket sales. This was matched by strong critical reaction and a strong guest list — a far cry from the lackluster perfs of the warring New Montreal FilmFest and the Montreal World Film Festival.

The FilmFest organizers sent an open letter to the media on Monday saying it was unlikely to survive for a second edition unless it merged with the Nouveau.

However, the Nouveau’s executive director, Bruno Jobin, was unhappy about the overture.

“I didn’t learn anything new from this letter,” said Jobin. “It left me a bit skeptical, and I was unhappy to hear about it from the media. I think it should’ve been done in a more confidential manner.”

The Nouveau’s board of directors will meet later this week to discuss the proposal.

The Nouveau notched 210 screenings at the event, which ran Oct. 13-23, and attendance was 40,171, up from 32,000. The cinemas were 61% filled, and 51 screenings were sold out.

Jobin said the event will increase the number of films from 80 to around 110 next year, and up the screenings to 300.

Fest guests included French helmer Jacques Audiard and thesp Roman Duris, both tubthumping “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” plus Anne Fontaine (“In His Hands”) and Toronto-based director Deepa Mehta (“Water”).

Next year’s 35th edition will run Oct. 12-22.

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