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Slow dance for deals at Toronto fest

Handful of domestic theatrical pacts announced

At the Toronto Film Fest, the domestic acquisitions market is back on the dance floor, but the pace of dealmaking is more akin to a genteel waltz than an all-night rave.

On Monday, Sony Pictures Classics closed a deal at the fest for U.S. rights to Denis Villeneuve’s French-Canadian pic “Incendies,” a buzzed-about title that premiered at the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals before coming here. Entertainment One repped the pic.

A few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a pic to be snapped up within hours of its premiere at a festival. That all changed when the indie film biz took a plunge amid the the larger economic collapse in late 2008. Buyers have become far more circumspect.

Last year, the fall festivals were nearly devoid of domestic deals, but that hasn’t been the case this time around.

Only five days into Toronto, a handful of domestic theatrical deals have been announced; however, buyers are taking more time before inking a deal, while prices also are more modest.

Late Sunday night, the Weinstein Co. agreed to pay approximately $3 million in a multi-territory deal for Abe Sylvia’s dramedy “Dirty Girl.” It bought rights to the U.S., U.K., France, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The deal was closed as the film made its Toronto premiere, but the Weinstein Co. had been keenly interested in the film repped by Graham Taylor’s WME Global and international sales company Salt before the fest began.

Similarly, U.S. distrib Music Box Films was already negotiating for U.S. rights to Francois Ozon’s Catherine Deneuve starrer “Potiche” coming into Toronto. Music Box sealed its deal for the film over the weekend. “Potiche” first played at Venice.

There are a number of other Toronto titles in play for a U.S. distribution deal. Some could close before the fest ends, including one for Richard Ayoade’s feature directorial debut “Submarine,” a British comedy-drama that several buyers began actively circling after its Sunday night premiere.

WME Global and Protagonist are co-repping domestic rights to “Submarine,” while Protagonist handles foreign. Pic toplines Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins.

Ben Stiller, a fan of the script from early on and exec producer of “Submarine,” presented the pic at the preem.

Foreign buyers also are circling “Submarine.” Optimum has already snagged U.K. rights.

“Submarine,” directed by and adapted by Richard Ayoade from the novel by Joe Dunthorne, tells the story of a 15-year-old boy with a two-fold goal: to lose his virginity by his next birthday, and stop his mother from leaving his father for a motivational speaker.

“Submarine” is produced by Brit-based Warp Films.

A domestic deal for theatrical rights to Mike Mills’ Ewan McGregor-Christopher Plummer topliner “Beginners” also is in play. Rich Klubeck and Rena Ronson’s UTA indie division is repping the pic, which has drawn strong reviews since premiering Saturday.”Beginners” tells the bittersweet story of a man (McGregor) who learns that his terminally ill father is gay and has a young lover. Olympus Pictures produced in association with Parts and Labor. Melanie Laurent also stars.

Over the weekend, IFC Films inked a deal with UTA and WME for domestic rights to genre pic “Super.”

Domestic buyers are likely to eye another UTA-repped film premiering at the fest on Monday, Rachel Weisz topliner “The Whistleblower.” Voltage is repping foreign rights to “Whistleblower,” which also stars Vanessa Redgrave and David Strathairn.

Justin Chadwick’s “The First Grader,” about an elderly Kenyan man who decides to get the education he never had and goes back to school when the Kenyan government offers free schooling, is being eyed by a number of domestic distribs. Pic, penned by Ann Peacock, stars Tony Kgoroge and Naomie Harris. Goldcrest Films is repping “First Grader” worldwide.

A number of U.S. buyers are looking at scooping up domestic rights to Errol Morris’ latest, “Tabloid.” Josh Braun’s Submarine is repping domestic rights. Both “Tabloid” and “First Grader” played at Telluride on their way to Toronto.

Among genre pics, “Vanishing on 7th Street” and “Bunraku,” repped by CAA, are drawing interest.

Sony Classics’ deal for “Incendies” was negotiated by eOne Films Intl. exec VP Charlotte Mickie and SPC co-prexy Michael Barker.

The French-Canadian pic is based on Wajdi Mouawad’s play about twins who discover, after their mother dies, that they have a father they thought was dead and a brother they didn’t know existed.

Project was produced by Luc Dery and Kim McCraw of micro_scope and is a co-production with TS Prods. in association with Phi Group.

EOne has already sold the pic to France (Happiness Distribution); Germany (Arsenal); Benelux (Cineart); Italy (Lucky Red); Switzerland (Filmcoopi); Israel (Shani Films) and the Middle East (ECS).

U.K. buyers are currently circling the project here in Toronto as are other international territories.

Pre-Toronto, SPC snapped up rights to Dustin Hoffman and Paul Giamatti starrer “Barney’s Version” after it screened in competition at the Venice Film Fest.

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