×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Home team rally in Toronto

Canuck producers field buzzy slate

The “locally grown” movement has come to Toronto.

This year’s strong Canadian feature slate has the loudest acquisitions buzz in recent memory, with U.S. and international deals for several high-profile Canuck titles expected in the coming week. Even a handful of low-budget pics are sparking interest beyond the domestic market.

But the spotlight was temporarily seized early Friday morning with the long-anticipated announcement that eOne is buying rival Alliance Films — which has distribution operations in Canada, the U.K. and Spain — for $229 million.

Alliance has 19 Toronto titles, including three high-profile Canadian films: Brandon Cronenberg’s “Antiviral” and Xavier Dolan’s “Laurence Anyways,” both Cannes pics, and Ruba Nadda’s Syria-set thriller “Inescapable,” which world preems Tuesday as a Gala. Myriad is selling the title in Toronto. Alliance opens all three in Canada this year.

“(Government funder) Telefilm, producers and distributors are all marching in the same direction now, all the way to the finish line, and more Canadian films can are standing on the world stage now than in the past,” Alliance senior vp Mark Slone told Variety.

The eOne-Alliance deal is a hot topic for Canadian filmmakers and players at the fest. The main question is not whether, but how it will impact Canuck projects in development that are planning to seek a domestic distributor pre-buy.

“We do believe this deal creates a terrific platform for Canadian films — in a marketplace dominated by major studios, our business is centered completely around independent film,” eOne prexy and CEO Darren Throop told Variety.

“Our combined acquisitions budgets won’t shrink, and in fact have the ability to go up, and the consolidated offering of Alliance and eOne gives life to a film it can’t get in a fragmented manner,” said Throop, adding that eOne sees value in Alliance’s iconic brand in the marketplace and its creative approach to assessing and acquiring successful Canadian properties.

As the spotlight returned to preeming pics Friday night, it was business as usual — and not just for the newly minted partners.

Already, international deals are in the works for Sarah Polley’s Venice and Telluride darling “Stories We Tell,” which screened Friday night. Pic opens in Canada next month through Mongrel Media, which is now the only other large Canuck independent distributor. And “Stories” producer the National Film Board of Canada is set to meet with interested U.S. buyers today.

Friday also saw the world preem of screenwriter Kate Melville’s feature bow “Picture Day,” a lively coming-of-ager turning heads for the standout perf of Tatiana Maslany (2010 Sundance Breakout Performance winner for “Grown Up Movie Star”) as a teen forced to repeat the last year of high school.

This weekend sees the world preem of Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s celebrated novel “Midnight’s Children” (FilmNation is selling) as a Gala, as well as Anais Barbeau-Lavalette’s “Inch’Allah” (eOne) and Simon Ennis’ “Lunarcy! (Global Screen), all with advance buyer buzz.

“Inch,” about a female Quebec doctor working in a women’s health clinic on the Palestinian side of the West Bank, is produced by Luc Dery and Kim McCraw. Their Montreal shingle Microscope just hit the 10-year mark with recent pics including Oscar-nominated “Incendies” and fest fave “Monsieur Lazhar” elevating their profile.

“After ‘Lazhar’ we noticed buyers were starting to track our projects, which will help us as we work toward the next level of bigger budgets and more international co-productions,” Dery said.

While Dery and McCraw funded “Inch” through the typical Canadian financing model of Telefilm, provincial funds, broadcast licenses and domestic distribution pre-buys, some buzzing Canuck titles found other methods to start cameras rolling.

Robert Wilson, co-director and co-producer of darkly provocative actioner “I Declare War,” which preems Sunday, eschewed the Canadian model and accessed a completion fund of which his prodco is a shareholder.

The film, already getting advance kudos from local critics, was shot in Toronto’s Rouge Valley woods and features a cast of unknown 12-year-olds playing a high-stakes game of capture the flag in which rules are made to be broken.

“We took the project to AFM at rough-cut stage and found international and U.S. sales agents that loved the film,” said Wilson, adding that a work-in-progress screening at Action Fest saw the title nab best picture and best screenplay awards.

Even if “War” sells this week, the news won’t top Wilson’s latest announcement — boy and girl twins born Thursday morning. Babies are said to be doing just fine.

More Scene

  • Dylan O'Brien, Justin Theroux, Angela Bassett,

    Travis Knight on Getting the Call to Direct ‘Bumblebee’: ‘Did You Guys Get The Right Number?’

    “Bumblebee” director Travis Knight admits he couldn’t believe it when Paramount Studios and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura called him two years ago, asking him to helm the upcoming “Transformers” movie. “My initial question was, ‘Did you guys get the right number?'” Knight joked at Sunday’s premiere of “Bumblebee” at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. “You’ve seen [...]

  • Director Peter JacksonWarner Bros. Pictures THEY

    Peter Jackson Talks Transition From 'Hobbit' Movies to World War I Documentary

    Peter Jackson remains a bit astounded at his transition four years ago from the Shire of Middle Earth to the French battlefields of World War I. Jackson introduced his documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” Friday night at the Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood, four weeks after it aired on Armistice Day on the BBC. [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • Children's Defense Fund

    Angela Bassett, Conan O'Brien Honor Young Students at Children's Defense Fund Gala

    Awards season may be right around the corner, but on Thursday, Hollywood took a break from the glitz and glam to celebrate five high school students who have excelled academically despite facing extreme adversity both at home and in the classroom. The 29th annual Beat the Odds Awards ceremony at the Skirball Cultural Center featured [...]

  • Dolly Parton attends the world premiere

    Dolly Parton Hopes to Perform 'Dumplin'' Song at the Golden Globes

    It’s not easy to upstage Jennifer Aniston. But everyone at Thursday night’s premiere of her new Netflix flick, “Dumplin’,” seemed to be singing the praises of Dolly Parton, who earlier in the day received a Golden Globe nomination for “Girl in the Movies,” one of half a dozen new songs she wrote for the film. [...]

  • Lena WaitheVariety's Power of Women, Arrivals,

    Who Lena Waithe Thinks Should Replace Kevin Hart as Oscar Host

    Lena Waithe thinks Kevin Hart could have handled his Oscar debacle in a much better way. “I kind of wish that he would have taken a moment to let it be a teachable moment and to say, ‘Hey, what I said wasn’t right and I want to make that right,’ not just to keep the [...]

  • Christie Brinkley32nd Annual Footwear News Achievement

    Christie Brinkley at 64: 'Women My Age Cannot Allow the Numbers to Define Them'

    Christie Brinkley may be turning 65 next year, but don’t you dare try to tell her what she should — or shouldn’t — wear. “I think women my age cannot allow the numbers to define them. We need to constantly redefine the number,” Brinkley told Variety on Tuesday at the Footwear News Achievement Awards in New [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content