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“Nowadays, no one has the same agenda,” says Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard. That precept sums up the post-COVID market landscape, which has forced streamers, day-and-daters and traditional theatrical distributors to carve out an increasingly specialized niche within their own subset. As a result, agents are finding fewer, but more focused, players vying for any given title. While finished films will continue to screen in person in Toronto, albeit to a smaller audience of potential buyers, hot packages will be presented virtually for the second year in a row. “We’ve gotten so used to being flexible and pivoting at the last minute to navigate how best to sell these films,” says ICM’s Jessica Lacy. “And that’s how we’re approaching it for our films this year, too.” Ultimately, the sales slates are markedly smaller, and the buyers are homing in on their targets with never-before-seen efficiency. Still, expect a few bidding wars, and these 10 projects, which represent an eclectic mix of finished films and presales, will likely kickstart a shopping spree.
The Bee Keeper
STARS Jason Statham
BUZZ Action movies starring Statham are as good as money in the bank with international distributors, so expect this thriller, set in the mythology of beekeeping, to fly off the shelves for Miramax, which is planning a September 2022 shoot.
STARS Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain
DIRECTOR John Michael McDonagh
BUZZ Based on Lawrence Osborne’s critically acclaimed best-seller, the film takes place over a weekend in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco, where a random accident upends the lives of the local Muslims and Western visitors. McDonagh (Calvary) directs a strong ensemble cast that also includes Matt Smith and Caleb Landry Jones.
The Good House
STARS Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline
DIRECTORS Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky
SALES ICM Partners/UTA Independent
BUZZ Weaver and Kline, who’ve played onscreen couples in the comedy Dave and the drama The Ice Storm, reunite for this relationship drama as former high school sweethearts who reconnect after decades apart. It’s a sure bet for buyers targeting older audiences.
Hold Your Fire
DIRECTOR Stefan Forbes
BUZZ This documentary, which takes a page from such narrative features as Dog Day Afternoon, chronicles the longest hostage siege in NYPD history and the birth of modern hostage negotiation. The ’70s-set film already nabbed the 2020 Library of Congress Better Angels trophy for historical film and is seen as an awards contender.
STARS Maria Bakalova
DIRECTOR Dean Craig
SALES Endeavor Content/CAA
BUZZ Broad comedies remain a stable of the international market, and this rom-com looks to be a winner thanks to Bakalova, who’s following her star-making (and Oscar-nominated) performance in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm by playing a new wife whose romantic honeymoon in Venice is ruined when her husband’s needy best friend crashes the party. Bakalova is also producing.
STARS Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver
DIRECTOR Paul Schrader
SALES HanWay Films/David Gonzales
BUZZ The international reception for Schrader’s Venice competition release The Card Counter demonstrates that there remains a strong market for the director’s brand of dark drama. In this one, Edgerton stars as the titular master gardener at an American estate who is forced to confront his past.
STARS Kaley Cuoco, Pete Davidson
DIRECTOR Alex Lehman
SALES The Exchange/ICM Partners
BUZZ Internationally bankable stars Cuoco (Big Bang Theory) and Davidson (Suicide Squad) should draw attention to this rom-com with a sci-fi twist: The concept imagines couples being able to travel into their partners’ past to fix their problems.
STARS Haley Lu Richardson, Owen Teague
DIRECTORS Scott McGehee, David Siegel
BUZZ From the directors of TIFF acquisition What Maisie Knew, this drama revolves around two estranged siblings as they return home to the sprawling ranch they once knew and loved. Teague, best known for creepy horror fare like Stephen King’s It films, switches gears with this dramatic Western, while Richardson has been dubbed a potential breakout.
STARS Keira Knightley, Lily-Rose Depp, Roman Griffin Davis, Matthew Goode
DIRECTOR Camille Griffin
SALES Endeavor Content
BUZZ It’s the end of the world as we know it in Griffin’s feature directorial debut. With mankind’s imminent destruction looming, a group of friends reunite to celebrate one last Christmas in this very British horror-comedy hybrid. The film was recently picked up AMC+ and RLJE Films for North America.
STARS Ben Foster, Vicky Krieps, Billy Magnussen, Peter Sarsgaard, John Leguizamo, Danny DeVito
DIRECTOR Barry Levinson
SALES Endeavor Content
BUZZ Bron Studios returns to Toronto after its Pieces of a Woman sold at the festival last year. Based on the true story of Harry Haft (Foster), a Jewish boxer who fought fellow prisoners in Auschwitz to stay alive, The Survivor follows his post-World War II career as he attempts to use high-profile bouts against boxing legends like Rocky Marciano as a way to come to terms with his past.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s Sept. 10 daily issue at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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