Dealmaking for Toronto Film Festival titles continued in earnest over the weekend, making it the busiest acquisitions market for any fest in recent years.
A flurry of sales were announced Sunday, including Focus Features’ domestic and multi-territory deal for Mike Mills’ dramedy “Beginners,” toplining Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer. UTA Independent Film Group repped worldwide rights.
Several pics were on the verge of landing a home with a U.S. distrib, led by Justin Chadwick’s “The First Grader,” runner-up for the fest’s People’s Choice prize. Buyers circling the film, about a 74-year-old Kenyan man who goes back to school, include Goldwyn and partner ATO Pictures.
Along with “Beginners,” Jalmari Helander’s “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” sold Sunday to
Oscilloscope for North America, while Image Entertainment picked up U.S. rights to Mitch Glazer’s feature directorial debut “Passion Play.”
Oscilloscope also acquired North American rights Friday to Kelly Reichardt’s Western drama, “Meek’s Cutoff,” which it will release in the first half of 2011.
“Beginners” marked Focus’ first Toronto buy. Deal was notable in that the specialty distrib isn’t making a minimum guarantee; rather, it’s a gross corridor pact, meaning Focus and the filmmakers will share in the box office receipts. Also, Focus has committed to putting up roughly $2 million in marketing coin.
Focus will release “Beginners” in 2011. There were a handful of other bidders for the film, one of the most buzzed-about titles at the fest.
UTA’s Rich Klubeck and Rena Ronson — who has extensive experience in international sales — took a unique approach in selling “Beginners” by handling foreign rights, as well as domestic. UTA had already sold Canada, France, Australia, Scandinavia and Benelux when Focus inked its deal for the U.S. and all remaining territories.
Produced by Olympus Pictures and Parts and Labor, “Beginners” explores the hilarity, heartbreak and surprises of a son’s discovery that his dying father is gay. Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech, Miranda de Pencier, Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy are producers.
Avy Eschenasy negotiated on behalf of Focus.
“Passion Play,” repped by ICM’s independent group, drew mixed reviews at the fest, but has star billing in Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox and Bill Murray. ICM, which packaged the pic and reps Rourke, Fox and Glazer, said a theatrical component is a part of the pact, valued at north of seven figures.
On Saturday, Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate teamed to acquire all U.S. rights to Dan Rush’s Will Ferrell drama “Everything Must Go,” co-repped by ICM and CAA, while IFC Films announced a deal for domestic rights to Barry W. Blaustein’s black comedy “Peep World,” also a CAA title.
Roadside will release “Everything Must Go” theatrically in the spring, while Lionsgate will handle home entertainment. (Lionsgate has a minority stake in Roadside.)
Based on a short story by Carver and adapted by Rush, “Everything Must Go” tells the story of a salesman who loses his job after falling off the wagon and arrives home to discover that wife has left him and dumped all his possessions in the front yard of their suburban home. He reluctantly decides to hold a garage sale that turns into a unique strategy for survival.
The pic presents a marketing challenge as it diverges from Ferrell’s usual mainstream comedy roles.
“Everything Must Go” also stars Rebecca Hall, Christopher Wallace and Laura Dern. Producers are Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey of Temple Hill Prods.
“Everything Must Go” is the second Toronto film that Lionsgate and Roadside partnered on after acquiring all North American rights to Robert Redford’s Robin Wright-James McAvoy historical drama “The Conspirator.”
Like Roadside and Lionsgate, IFC Films has been an active player at this year’s edition of Toronto. “Peep World” was the third festival title picked up by IFC after genre pic “Super” and Werner Herzog’s 3D docu “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”
Also this week, IFC bought Barry Avrich’s docu “Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project,” although the film did not play at Toronto. “Peep World’s” ensemble cast includes Michael C. Hall, Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson (Wilson also stars in “Super”), Ben Schwartz, Judy Greer and Kate Mara. Comedy tells the story of an unforgettable family gathering.
Producers are Joe Neurauter, Felipe Marino Keith Calder. IFC’s senior VP of acquisitions and co-productions negotiated the deal with CAA.
Pact for “Everything Must Go” was negotiated by Cohen for Roadside and Schwartz and Lions-gate senior home entertainment director and business development Marc Danon for Lionsgate. ICM, which reps Rush, and CAA, which represents Ferrell and Dern, negotiated on behalf of the filmmakers. Rush also is repped by Management 360.
(Jennie Punter contributed to this report.)