Do or die for 'A Single Man' in Toronto

'Chloe,' 'Get Low' also might have buyers circling

TORONTO -- With several titles in play but none yet sealing a deal in Toronto, the indie world late Monday pinned its hopes on "A Single Man," the much-buzzed drama from fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford.

The pic, which won an award last weekend for lead Colin Firth at the Venice Film Festival, is drawing comparisons to last year's "The Wrestler," which was bought by a specialty division (Fox Searchlight) at Toronto for an awards run a few months later. Like that film, CAA is repping the title north of the border.

Ford's debut is based on a Christopher Isherwood novel and concerns a Los Angeles English professor who tries to go about his life after his partner has died. Most major buyers were set to pack the relatively small Isabel Bader Theatre at 9:30 p.m. ET, and a strong screening could lead to late-night bidding from a group of specialty divisions.

No U.S. buyers had been shown the pic before its Toronto debut, helping to create a more dramatic do-or-die screening environment that has become rare on the festival circuit.

Several other titles remained in play as of Monday evening, including the Israel war pic "Lebanon" and the Bill Murray/Robert Duvall comedy-thriller "Get Low," a period tale about a man who stages his own funeral.

Atom Egoyan's "Chloe," a love-triangle drama starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried, also received a warm response from buyers after its Sunday debut, and several distributors were circling.

But the longer movies stay on the table, the less they will go for -- and the narrower the band of companies likely to pick them up. Larger specialty divisions tend to buy right away or not at all, while smaller ones like IFC will scoop up titles deep into or shortly after a festival for a much lower price.

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With the sales market so cold, even sales agents on other films were rooting for "Single Man."

"What I want is someone -- anyone -- to buy something, just so others won't be scared," said one seller who does not rep "Single Man."

"There's a lot of fear right now. One big buy could help cure it."