Buyers mixed on Toronto films

'Welles, 'Burning Plain' among targets

With anticipation riding high for the Mickey Rourke drama "The Wrestler" on Sunday, a number of Toronto International Film Festival acquisition targets saw their fortunes rise and fall on Saturday.

Acquisition execs offered up a generally favorable reaction to "Me and Orson Welles," the Richard Linklater-helmed stage drama set in the 1930's. The 30-minute footage reel shown at the Festival de Cannes had underwhelmed some buyers, but the Friday evening screening left buyers feeling "pleasantly surprised," as one exec put it.

The title, repped by Cinetic, stars Zac Efron; while some have raised doubts about the movie's ability to reel in younger viewers, the prospect of a teen-friendly star may prove tempting for buyers.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were high expectations for Guillermo Ariaga's directorial debut "The Burning Plain," but the movie failed to ignite buyers.

The film, coming with the pedigree of "Babel" writer Ariaga, rode in to town with looking like a pretty sure bet, and pretty much every major buyer was at the screening.

But the fire soon grew a little cold.

Some noted that the U.S.-set drama, which features Arriaga's penchant for complex narrative, wasn’t complicated enough.

Still, Charlize Theron could prove a selling point, as could the breakout performance of Jennifer Lawrence.

Saturday afternoon also saw the screening of the potential doc crossover "More Than a Game," a kind of "Hoop Dreams" featuring LeBron James and his high-school basketball team.

The Endeavor-repped movie played well at its Ryerson debut to a somewhat entourage-heavy crowd, and the prospect of James promoting the film was appealing, even if sports docs are not a traditionally strong theatrical bet.

Toronto titles tend to sell more slowly than those at other festivals, in part because specialty divisions are often doing double-duty rolling out their fall titles.

Still, a deal over the first few days is not uncommon, and a sale -- particularly for the high-buzz wrestler "Wrestler" -- could be imminent.
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