Projects starring the likes of Anne Hathaway ('Colossal'), Natalie Portman ('Jackie') and Christian Bale ('The Promise') will be hoping to get some love from dealmakers and awards-season attention when the fest kicks off Sept. 8.
Just two years ago, the Toronto market hit a high-water mark when the Chris Rock comedy Top Five sparked a fierce bidding war, with worldwide rights selling to Paramount for $12.5 million. But no one is expecting the 2016 edition to reach those heights, at least not for a finished film. As film companies have fallen away (Alchemy, Radius) and others hover under a question mark (The Weinstein Co., Broad Green), no new players have emerged to pick up the slack. In fact, most predict this year will be a buyer's market, especially since 2015's top finished film sale, the thriller Hardcore Henry, failed to justify its $10 million worldwide rights price tag (it only earned $9 million domestically). After all, most of the flashier titles, like Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, sold long ago. And though Netflix and Amazon continue their buying sprees, the streaming giants increasingly are buying off-market and coming in at an earlier stage. "Buyers like us will have an advantage because some of our competitors are struggling or seem to be off the grid altogether," says Bill Bromiley, president of Saban Films.
But even in a cautious market, a few titles are generating big buzz. These 16 are likely to get buyers to let down their guard:
DIRECTOR Marc Forster
STARS Blake Lively, Jason Clarke
BUZZ Forster co-wrote and directed this drama about a blind woman (Lively) whose relationship with her husband (Clarke) changes when she regains her sight and discovers disturbing details about their identities.
DIRECTOR George Nolfi
STARS Xia Yu, Philip Wan-Lung Ng, Billy Magnussen
BUZZ Up-and-coming martial artist Bruce Lee challenges legendary kung fu master Wong Jack Man to a no-holds-barred fight in this finished film.
DIRECTOR Philippe Falardeau
STARS Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Elisabeth Moss, Jim Gaffigan, Ron Perlman
BUZZ Schreiber stars as New Jersey heavyweight boxer — and notorious womanizer — Chuck Wepner, who was the real-life inspiration for Sylvester Stallone's Rocky.
DIRECTOR Susan Johnson
STARS Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne
BUZZ An awkward and isolated 19-year-old genius (Powley) is challenged to put her convictions to the test by wading into the NYC dating scene in this adaptation of Caren Lissner’s best-selling 2003 novel.
DIRECTOR Nacho Vigalondo
STARS Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis
BUZZ In this completed quirky take on the traditional monster movie, Hathaway plays a New York woman who uses her mind to battle a giant lizard half a world away.
DIRECTOR Jay Baruchel
STARS Seann William Scott, Liev Schreiber
BUZZ In the sequel to 2011's cult hit Goon, hockey enforcer Doug Glatt (Scott) gives up his big-show aspirations to be a buttoned-down insurance salesman. Naturally, he can't resist the siren call of the Highlanders, so he sets course to reclaim his former glory. Baruchel co-wrote, directed and also stars in the $10 million-plus film, which is screening off-market Sept. 11.
DIRECTOR Dan Gilroy
BUZZ The legal drama project marks Gilroy's follow-up to his gritty directorial debut, Nightcrawler. Denzel Washington is eyeing the lead role as an attorney dealing with a major change at his company. Even with a still-coming-together cast, the film's script (written by Oscar nominee Gilroy) already is generating huge interest from major buyers.
DIRECTOR Pablo Larrain
STAR Natalie Portman
BUZZ Portman stars as the titular former first lady in the days following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Fox Searchlight has first right to negotiate, so it has the inside track on the completed film.
DIRECTOR Fabrice Du Welz
STARS Chadwick Boseman, Teresa Palmer, Luke Evans
BUZZ Boseman brings his passion project to the big screen (he also produced) with this drama about a mysterious outsider from South Africa named Jacob King who arrives in Los Angeles to avenge his younger sister's death.
DIRECTOR Dash Shaw
STARS Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Reggie Watts
BUZZ Last year saw Charlie Kaufman's animated Anomalisa sparking heated studio interest before selling to Paramount. This year, newcomer Shaw's ode to the adolescent outsider also could excite buyers looking for an edgy animated pic.
DIRECTOR Michael Noer
STARS Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek
BUZZ The Charlie Hunnam-led Lost City of Z just sold to Amazon Studios in a major deal. Look for the Hunnam starrer Papillon, a remake of 1973 prison escape drama (pictured above), to spark just as much heat. Hunnam will play the role made famous by Steve McQueen. Like Inner City, it’s at the package stage and, in a dramatic twist, marks Red Granite’s first project since a judge ruled that it could continue doing business amid a federal investigation into the company’s involvement in billions embezzled from Malaysia.
DIRECTOR Terry George
STARS Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, Charlotte Le Bon
BUZZ Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the finished drama chronicles a love triangle between a brilliant medical student, a beautiful and sophisticated woman, and a renowned American journalist based in Paris.
DIRECTOR Danny Strong
STARS Zoey Deutch, Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Spacey
BUZZ Selling off a promo reel, the J.D. Salinger pic written and directed by Strong likely will fetch one of the biggest prices during the market.
DIRECTOR Lone Scherfig
STARS Sam Claflin, Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston
BUZZ Fans of Scherfig’s An Education are eager to see the director’s latest, which depicts a love story set during World War II. Prestige-minded distributors are lining up.
DIRECTOR Adam Leon
STARS Callum Turner, Grace Van Patten
BUZZ Leon, who co-wrote and directed the guy-girl heist film, is one of the hottest young directors in the indie scene (he also is the son of uber-publicist Leslee Dart). But it is the breakout performances by Turner and Van Patten that have buyers clamoring for this completed pic.
DIRECTOR Robin Swicord
STARS Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Garner
BUZZ Writer-director Swicord pops up again (she also co-wrote The Promise) with this drama about a successful lawyer (Cranston) who suddenly walks out on his life and secretly moves into the backyard where he can watch his family from afar.