×

Toronto: Festival Deals Set to Heat Up in Second Half

Films including 'Railway Man' draw strong interest from buyers

With the 38th Toronto Film Festival at the halfway point, Harvey Weinstein has raised hopes for a high-powered finish following his company’s $7 million deal for writer-director John Carney’s “Can a Song Save Your Life?”

The transaction, which includes a $20 million P&A commitment, closed Sunday morning, less than 12 hours after the well-received world premiere at the Roy Thomson Hall. TWC and Lionsgate were the final bidders for U.S. rights from seller Exclusive Media with CAA and UTA co-representing U.S. rights.

The drama, starring Keira Knightley as an undiscovered singer and Mark Ruffalo as an over-the-hill producer, sparked comparisons with Irish helmer Carney’s “Once.”

“I can’t think of any buyer who wasn’t involved,” said Alex Walton, Exclusive Media’s president of international distribution. “Because of John, we thought early on that we had something special. And we wanted to be sure everyone saw it first so there would be a level playing field.”

The transaction was the second major weekend deal at Toronto, following Focus Features’ Saturday acquisition of worldwide rights to Jason Bateman’s black comedy “Bad Words,” also for $7 million. Those two deals were far in excess of last year’s top Toronto transaction of $3.5 million for “The Place Beyond the Pines.”

A24 also locked up North American rights on Saturday for Tom Hardy’s “Locke.” And Nicole Kidman-Colin Firth starrer “The Railway Man” appears to be one of the most likely films to see a deal by the time the festival ends Sunday, with TWC having made an offer.

Other Toronto films generating interest among buyers included closing-night title “Life of Crime,” starring Jennifer Aniston; Fred Schepisi’s “Words and Pictures”; Matthew Weiner’s “You Are Here”; Mike Myers doc “Supermensch”; Daniel Radcliffe starrer “Horns”; “The Double,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska; and Eli Roth’s “The Green Inferno,” a Midnight Madness entry for which a sequel is already in the works.

“It’s a good market for actor-driven titles, and we’ll see it reflected in the number of sales this year,” said UTA’s Rena Ronson. “The financing market is very healthy, and it’s led to some potentially great Academy films like ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ ‘August: Osage,’ ‘Foxcatcher’ and ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ — films that the studios are not financing.”

Ronson said funding sources are getting more sophisticated. “Five or six years ago, people just wanted to get into it,” she added. “Now they ask for more diligent modeling and pre-sales. They’re looking at the big picture a little more closely.”

Mark Damon of Foresight Unlimited, who oversaw impressive sales last year on “2 Guns,” admitted he was perplexed that activity had not ramped up further but speculated that many deals will need several more weeks to close.

“There are a lot of good films for sale, but I’ve also noticed that sales take more and more time,” he added.

Five-month-old International Film Trust saw solid interest on a pair of projects — Ethan Hawke’s “Cymbeline,” now in production with Dakota Johnson in the cast; and “Your Voice in My Head,” starring Emma Watson.

“I think summer was not easy for putting projects together so the market was not overly saturated,” said International Film Trust prexy Ariel Veneziano. “Cymbeline” sold to Japan, Australia, Russia/CIS, Eastern Europe, Turkey and Greece.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • AtmosphereThe Current State of Play in

    New York’s PlayStation Theater to Close (EXCLUSIVE)

    New York’s PlayStation Theater, a 2,100-capacity venue located in Times Square and operated by Bowery Presents, will close at the end of 2019, a source close to the situation tells Variety. The venue will close with a New Year’s series of shows from the Disco Biscuits. The theater, which is located two stories beneath the [...]

  • Courtesy of Earwolf

    How Lauren Lapkus Tossed the Script and Created a Podcasting Hit

    Lauren Lapkus has tossed the script on what makes most podcasts a hit. At a time when many of the most downloaded shows are true crime investigations or celebrity interviews, she’s doing something entirely different on each episode of “With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus.” Each hour-long installment is a free-wheeling, completely improvised ride. One show [...]

  • WWE NXT

    WWE's 'NXT' Moves to USA Network as Wrestling Competition Heats Up

    WWE has struck a deal to move its “NXT” franchise focusing on rising stars to USA Network starting next month. “NXT” will shift to USA from the WWE Network subscription streaming service as of Sept. 18. The deal comes as USA is about to lose WWE’s “SmackDown” showcase to Fox starting in October. USA is [...]

  • Shazam

    Apple Music Launches 'Shazam Discovery' Chart, Focused on New Artists

    Apple Music today launched the “Shazam Discovery Top 50,” a weekly, global ranking of 50 artists that it describes as “on the move and trending” — in other words, new and emerging artists. While the company wouldn’t say much specifically about how the chart is tabulated, it uses “Shazam’s proprietary algorithms [to offer] a unique predictive view [...]

  • The Chainsmokers Production Company

    Chainsmokers’ Catalog Acquired by Fast-Growing Hipgnosis Songs

    The Chainsmokers’ writer and publishing rights have been acquired by the fast-growing Hipgnosis Songs and its investment adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, for an undisclosed amount, the company announced today. The company has acquired 100% of the Chainsmokers’ interest in 32 of the duo’s songs, including ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) income in [...]

  • Hollywood Recession Business Placeholder

    How an Economic Downturn Could Ravage Hollywood

    Trade-war fears, stock market volatility and, most recently, bond market signals that point to a pending recession are rattling investors, igniting concerns that another devastating downturn may be just around the corner. As those worries reverberate all the way from Wall Street to Hollywood, the entertainment industry is in for an unsettling reminder of the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content