A ‘Crash’ course in finding fest gold

Toronto pickup breaks new ground with Oscar win

Amid all the post-Oscarcast hype, one noteworthy fact seems to have been overlooked: “Crash” is the first festival acquisition in Hollywood history to win best picture.

Marking that milestone, Lionsgate acquisitions maestro Peter Block received a bottle of champagne from Focus Features’ James Schamus and David Linde within 48 hours of “Crash’s” win over “Brokeback Mountain.”

Block and his team first saw “Crash” on a Friday night at the 2004 Toronto Film Fest. They bought it the next morning.

A handful of fest buys have been nominated for best pic in recent years, including “The Pianist” and “Lost in Translation,” but they ultimately missed out on the top prize.

Before the fest circuit got into full swing, launching the indie craze, there was one indie “buy” that did win best picture: “Chariots of Fire,” which won the top Oscar in 1981. The Ladd Co. bought U.S. distrib rights to the completed film, which was released domestically by Warner Bros., which had a deal with Ladd.

A pragmatist, Block doesn’t think the Oscar victory will have any impact on the acquisition market. But he certainly savored the moment from his seat in the mezzanine at the Kodak Theater.