U.S., overseas deals heat up Toronto fest

'Dredd' pre-sale, 'Super' pickup show buyer interest

IM Global’s mammoth roughly $7 million pre-sale deal over the weekend with Entertainment for U.K. rights to “Dredd 3D” is indicative of the three-headed beast that the Toronto Film Festival has become — a launchpad for fall films and a place to do business on domestic acquisitions and, increasingly, foreign sales.

Much like Cannes, Toronto has become a meeting ground for the global film biz. And the move downtown this year to its new official HQ the Bell Lightbox has centralized the once sprawling fest.Many of the films premiering in the fest are being simultaneously sold to domestic and international buyers. That includes James Gunn’s dark comedy “Super.”

On Sunday, IFC Films closed a seven-figure deal for U.S. distrib rights to the pic, which stars Rainn Wilson as a husband who transforms himself into a superhero to rescue his wife from a drug dealer. U.S. deals may seem like the sexiest fest biz, but it was the size of the IM Global-Entertainment pre-sale deal for “Dredd” that had film execs buzzing on Sunday. They say it’s likely the biggest territory deal, whether foreign or domestic, to come out of Toronto in recent times.

DNA Films is producing “Dredd,” while Reliance Big Entertainment and IM Global financed.

It’s still too early in the fest to tell how the domestic acquisitions market will fare. “Super” drew heavy interest soon after premiering in the festival’s Midnight Madness section Friday night. Among domestic buyers, IFC is rumored to be circling other films in addition to “Super.”

Lionsgate is said to be among distribs circling Errol Morris docu “Tabloid.”

Other titles in play include Dan Moshe’s Josh Hartnett topliner “Bunraku,” which premiered Saturday in Midnight Madness. CAA reps domestic rights; IM Global, foreign. The two companies also rep Will Ferrell starrer “Everything Must Go,” which buyers are circling.

There also are offers on the table for the U.S. for Mike Mill’s Ewan McGregor-Christopher Plummer bittersweet drama “Beginners,” which has drawn strong reviews and audience response since premiering Saturday night. UTA is selling the film domestically.

Another buzzed-about title over the weekend was Emilio Estevez’s spiritual odyssey “The Way,” toplining Martin Sheen. Film is ready-made for a faith-based marketing campaign. John Sloss’ Cinetic Media is repping domestic rights, while Icon has foreign.

International titles are also seeing flurries of activity. Justin Chadwick’s Kenyan-set “The First Grader,” sold through Goldcrest Films, has sparked interest from a slew of buyers. Israeli docu “Precious Life,” repped by Bleiberg Entertainment, has secured Canadian distribution with Mongrel Media and is weighing two Gaul offers, while Vincent Cassel starrer “Our Day Will Come,” sold through TFI Intl., has been snapped up by Blighty distrib Optimum Releasing.

Sellers looking to polish off final key territory distrib deals are finding Toronto a fertile stomping ground for foreign sales. Fortissimo Films secured deals for John Woo’s “Reign of Assassins” with Madmen for Australia and New Zealand and California Filmes for Brazil after the pic preemed at Venice last week. The Michelle Yeoh starrer is being released domestically through the Weinstein Co.

UTA also is repping domestic rights to “Fubar 2,” a sequel to the Canadian cult pic and another title playing in Midnight Madness. Film is repped internationally by the up-and-coming genre company Celluloid Nightmares, a division of Celluloid Dreams.

Genre pics like “Super” or “Fubar 2” seem to have an advantage over specialty titles like “Everything Must Go” or David Schwimmer’s dark drama “Trust” in terms of inking a U.S. distribution deal quickly. More and more, such pacts are negotiated over longer periods of time, instead of provoking fest bidding frenzies.

Around Toronto over the weekend, U.S. distribs premiered and threw bashes for kudos hopefuls and other fall films using fest slots as launchpads. They included Paramount with Davis Guggenheim docu “Waiting for Superman”; TWC with “The King’s Speech”; Focus Features with “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”; Fox Searchlight with “Never Let Me Go” and Overture/Relativity with “Stone” and “Jack Goes Boating.”