Toronto Hot List: 10 Titles Set to Heat Up the Festival Market

5:00 AM 9/4/2019

by Scott Roxborough and Tatiana Siegel

With Sundance hits fizzling at the box office, buyers heading to TIFF are cautious as they grapple with how indie distribution models are changing in a world of streamers and tentpoles: "What’s theatrical in today’s market?"

Getty Images; Courtesy of TIFF

Sundance sizzled. But the box office of the films sold in that market largely fizzled over the past few months. That has buyers, and even sellers, expecting a market correction this Toronto, with little evidence to support the astronomical price tags in Park City (think eight-figure acquisitions like Late Night and Blinded by the Light). In a sign of the anxiety felt by sales agents, most are pre-screening their bigger titles for distributors ahead of the market. But ICM Partners' Oliver Wheeler says his team is bucking that trend. "I still think premiering at a festival, in a competitive environment with the good old-fashioned audience, is usually the best way to go about selling a film," he says.

Most dealmakers expect Netflix to strike for films with name casts or foreign-language titles to build its international slate. Cornerstone Films' Mark Gooder asks the question vexing both buyers and sellers: "What's theatrical in today's market?" he says. "Is it just tentpoles and horror films?" Gooder notes that "the indie film model was born out of nothing. It built up into this huge business model. But now it's returning to where it was." Still, these 10 projects are among the top contenders hoping to reverse the cooling trend.

  • 'Bad Education'

    CAA/Endeavor

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Stars Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney

    Director Cory Finley

    Buzz Based-on-a-true-story movies, with their built-in marketing hooks, are in demand in the indie space, and this comedic tale of Long Island school superintendents (Jackman and Janney) caught up in an embezzlement scandal, could play to the I, Tonya crowd.

  • 'Blackbird'

    Millennium

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Stars Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, Sam Neill

    Director Roger Michell

    Buzz Targeting the same female-skewing audience that came out for The Wife, this family drama is set over a single weekend, when competing daughters (Winslet and Wasikowska) gather with their spouses and kids to say good-bye to the family's terminally ill matriarch (Sarandon).

  • 'The Burnt Orange Heresy'

    CAA/UTA/HanWay

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Stars Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki, Mick Jagger, Donald Sutherland

    Director Giuseppe Capotondi

    Buzz The Square star Bang plays an art critic who agrees to steal a priceless masterpiece from reclusive artist Jerome Debney (Sutherland) on behalf of a powerful collector (Jagger).

  • 'Coming Home Again'

    ICM Partners/Asian Shadows

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Stars Justin Chon, Jackie Chung, John Lie, Christina July Kim

    Director Wayne Wang

    Buzz Indie stalwart Wang returns with this drama about a Korean American man who cares for his ailing mother while trying to master her traditional cooking.

  • 'The Friend'

    Endeavor/STXinternational

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Stars Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson, Jason Segel

    Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite

    Buzz Manchester By the Sea's Affleck stars in another heart-wrenching drama about a man whose family dynamic is drastically changed when a friend (Segel) moves in to help him care for his terminally ill wife (Johnson).

  • 'Greenland'

    STXinternational

    Jim Spellman/WireImag

    Stars Gerard Butler

    Director Ric Roman Waugh

    Buzz Trump recently put Greenland in the news, sparking apocalyptic predictions. This film follows a family's fight for survival in the face of, you guessed it, a cataclysmic natural disaster.

  • 'True History of the Kelly Gang'

    CAA/UTA/Memento

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Stars George MacKay, Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult

    Director Justin Kurzel

    Buzz A fictionalized retelling of the life and crimes of infamous 19th century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly (MacKay).

  • 'Love, Weddings & Other Disasters'

    Endeavor/Gersh/Fortitude

    Rachel Luna/Getty Images

    Stars Diane Keaton, Jeremy Irons, Diego Boneta

    Director Dennis Dugan

    Buzz Paramount picked up the Keaton starrer Book Club for $10 million at the 2017 AFM market and turned it into a breakout that earned $104 million worldwide. And Dugan boasts plenty of studio cred, having helmed such comedies as Happy Gilmore, Just Go With It and both Grown Ups films. Set to begin shooting this month, this could be one for a major studio.

  • 'Synchronic'

    UTA/XYZ Films

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Stars Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Ally Ioannides, Ramiz Monsef

    Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

    Buzz Avengers star Mackie and Fifty Shades of Grey’s Dornan play a pair of New Orleans paramedics who stumble upon a bizarre plot involving a series of drug-related deaths in what is being dubbed a genre-bending film.

  • 'Violence of Action'

    STXinternational

    Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

    Stars Chris Pine

    Director Tarik Saleh

    Buzz Swedish helmer Saleh makes his English-language debut with this dramatic actioner that stars Pine as a former Marine who joins a paramilitary group in a desperate attempt to support his family.

    This story first appeared in the Sept. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.