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Back in June — when uncertainty reigned — the Cannes Virtual Film Market offered a reason for optimism, with strong presales for in-development titles hoping to hit theaters in 2021 or 2022. “Cannes was a huge success, and we were selling movies internationally like we haven’t done in years,” says CAA’s Roeg Sutherland. “There were a lot of unknowns. We didn’t know what was going to happen. But the world was buying. Buying for the present. Buying for the future.”
Fast-forward three months, and the COVID-19 picture is still murky. As such, the Toronto (mostly virtual) market, which kicks off Sept. 10, will test the worldwide appetite for finished films ready for release. The accompanying festival, which will allow only Canadian citizens to attend, is typically packed with big commercial films and awards-season hopefuls. But this year’s pickings look slim. “The whole business is still in stasis, with theaters closed in most of the world and production mostly stopped,” says David Garrett of U.K.-based sales and production group Mister Smith, which is not bringing any new titles to TIFF. “There are very few films available, and most buyers have already taken delivery of films they can’t release.”
Still, U.S. distributors plan to log in and screen sales titles. “There hasn’t been a market that we haven’t bought at since COVID started, and we don’t expect TIFF to be any different,” says Neon CEO Tom Quinn, who bought Spencer, Pablo Larraín’s Princess Diana feature starring Kristen Stewart, in Cannes. And the deep-pocketed streaming platforms — including new kids on the block Disney+, HBO Max and Apple+ — also are buying (Amazon snatched up Regina King’s awards contender One Night in Miami ahead of its Toronto bow).
Furthermore, a smaller-than-usual pool of already-released Oscar hopefuls could buoy the buzzworthy titles on offer, including these on THR’s TIFF Hot List.
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