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Toronto: Participant Preems ‘Fifth Estate,’ Sets Overseas Expansion

Post-WikiLeaks, producer plots projects on pedophile priests, Deepwater Horizon disaster

Participant Media continues to grow its profile with star-driven projects such as Toronto opening night WikiLeaks film “The Fifth Estate,” but the 9-year-old shingle has plenty of other weighty subjects in mind.

The Boston Globe investigation into pedophile priests and the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico are high priorities in feature development, as well as Ric Roman Waugh’s thriller “Currency.” Participant also expects to open offices in London, Doha and South America in the next 18 months.

“We feel as if there’s a good side to contagious diseases and retiring to India,” says CEO James Berk, referring to hits “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Contagion.” “They don’t look obvious at first glance. So we take a leap of faith on everything.”

With Benedict Cumberbatch portraying the polarizing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Participant hopes to continue to show that doing good can go along with seeing a return on investments. In addition to “Best Exotic” and “Contagion,” Participant saw solid returns from “The Help” and “Lincoln,” with the four grossing a combined $750 million worldwide.

“‘The Fifth Estate’ very much speaks to every aspect of our mission,” Berk says. “It’s timely and contemporary. This will put the conversation about WikiLeaks back into the zeitgeist.”

Participant produced “Estate” with DreamWorks and Disney is planning an Oct. 18 release.

Participant’s Toronto lineup also includes a pair of prominent docus — Errol Morris’ “The Unknown Known,” centering on Donald Rumsfeld, and Ron Howard’s “Made in America,” exploring the success of Jay Z.

Berk and founder-chairman Jeff Skoll will participate in the Industry Dialogues speaker series on Friday examining future of the film industry discussing their recently launched TV channel Pivot and digital site TakePart.com.

Berk says the launch of Pivot means Participant will be acquiring for both film and TV at the festival.

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