Toronto sales heating up

'Pines' deal likely to trigger more

With Focus Features closing a deal for U.S. distribution rights to “The Place Beyond the Pines,” the acquisition dam at Toronto is poised to break, as hungry buyers who missed out on the fest’s hottest title take their checkbooks elsewhere.

WME Global head Graham Taylor noted that the deal for “The Place Beyond the Pines” began taking shape shortly after Friday night’s world premiere at the Princess of Wales Theater – which reinforced the belief that the remainder of the fest should see an elevated pace.

The price of “Pines,” which closed sometime early Sunday morning, is estimated at $3 million.

Among the titles expected to sell within the next 24-to-48 hours are Stuart Blumberg’s sex addiction comedy “Thanks for Sharing”; Noah Baumbach’s black-and-white Greta Gerwig starrer “Frances Ha”; Neil Jordan’s supernatural vampire drama “Byzantium”; Kristen Wiig comedy “Imogene”; and the Alexander Skarsgard-Julianne Moore family drama “What Maisie Knew.”

Other Toronto titles, such as “The Iceman” and “Kon-Tiki,” have led to studio interest in filmmakers, with Warner Bros. high on the latter pic’s Norwegian helmers Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, and Sony set to meet with the former’s co-writer/director Ariel Vromen to discuss its upcoming Denzel Washington vehicle “The Equalizer,” which also has Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”) and Gavin O’Connor (“Warrior”) circling.

The Weinstein Co. is one of several distribs that have expressed serious interest in “Kon-Tiki.”

Other films that have buyers interested include Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” Sally Potter’s “Ginger and Rosa” and Sarah Polley’s documentary “Stories We Tell.” Smaller titles that could be snapped up before the end of the week include “Liverpool,” “A Hijacking” and the documentary “How to Make Money Selling Drugs.”

Micah Green, co-head of the CAA Film Finance Group, notes that distributors have been reacting positively to a large number of available films, including many of the more traditional arthouse films.

“We are expecting to see several more deals this week, and at strong prices given the nature of those films,” he adds.

Polley’s Venice and Telluride darling “Stories We Tell,” a personal docu about truth and memory, closed the weekend in a very competitive multiple-offer situation for the U.S., with numerous offers for international territories on the table. Pic is repped by the National Film Board of Canada.

Janet Tobias’ Holocaust survival docu “No Place on Earth,” repped by Submarine, received a positive response following its Saturday industry screening, and now has U.S. offers on the table.

The fest’s first big deal came on Friday when FilmDistrict acquired U.S. distribution rights to Good Universe’s “Oldboy,” Spike Lee’s remake of the South Korean suspenser. Good Universe topper Joe Drake told Variety that negotiations with Peter Schlessel of FilmDistrict were fairly uncomplicated, citing Schlessel’s strong track record in handling releases of an array of titles.

Drake also said that the deal underlines the improving outlook for sellers, with a growing number of viable distributors: “I think it shows that there’s a robust domestic community that’s become quite healthy,” he added.

Indeed, buyers for high-profile titles have included Anchor Bay (“Jayne Mansfield’s Car”), newly launched Outsource Media Group (“Great Expectations”) and 108 Media/Paladin (“The We and I”).

And two days before Toronto started, one of the more intriguing purchases went through, when Annapurna Pictures bought the U.S. distribution rights to Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers,” starring James Franco – even though Annapurna does not yet have a distribution arm.

The company said in its announcement that details about distribution would be disclosed at a later date, leading to speculation that Annapurna topper Megan Ellison will partner with an existing distributor on the pic.

Insiders still believe that this year’s market, following a year of solid sales activity at Berlin, Sundance and Cannes, will see dealmaking increase over last year’s TIFF – when the biggest deal was CBS Films’ $5 million purchase of “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.