Weinstein takes rights to 'A Single Man'

Lands first major Toronto buy in Tom Ford's directorial debut

TORONTO -- Harvey Weinstein on Tuesday provided a wake-up call at the Toronto International Film Festival, which has been in an acquisitions slumber, buying Tom Ford's "A Single Man" the morning after its debut screening.

The Weinstein Co. paid in the $1 million-$2 million range for U.S. and German rights and has scheduled the movie for a quick-turnaround release this year. The film, which looks at the day in the life, in 1962, of a Los Angeles English lit professor grieving for his recently dead lover, is the first major acquisition at a festival in several years for the Weinsteins.

Other buyers, including Focus and Miramax, were in the mix for "Man," but there were no other formal offers. Adding to the cautious approach taken by buyers at the fest, there was hesitancy about releasing the movie this year, which was important to the filmmakers and their reps, CAA for domestic rights and IM Global for foreign.

Weinstein and Ford have known each other for a decade, and the film impresario has a growing relationship with the fashion world via both TWC's producing of "Project Runway" and Weinstein's own marriage to British fashion designer Georgina Chapman.

The acquisition puts a spotlight on the Weinstein Co.'s slate as it heads into the fall season.

TWC, along with its Dimension label, is set to release both the Viggo Mortensen apocalyptic drama "The Road" and Rob Marshall's musical "Nine" on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That was already a crowded period for the company, and some observers have questioned whether Weinstein has the P&A financing and the stomach for two big releases in such proximity.

Now the banner's end-of-year calendar is even more crowded, even though "Man" is likely to be platformed at the end of December and not widen beyond New York and Los Angeles until January on the back of potential awards and critical plaudits. The Weinsteins could move "Nine" into 2010, though TWC said Tuesday that there have been no changes to its release schedule.

The acquisition of "Man" came after teams of execs from almost every significant specialty company and mini-major came to Toronto's small Isabel Bader Theatre on Monday. The movie earned high marks for its design as well as for Colin Firth's lead performance and Julianne Moore's supporting role.

Firth was named best actor for "Man" in Venice, and the Weinsteins are hoping that they can build momentum in a manner similar to "The Wrestler" last year. That picture rode into Toronto on the back of strong Venice acclaim and a buzzed-about central performance and was then acquired and quickly turned into an awards-season heavyweight by Fox Searchlight.

But "Man," a period gay-love story that spends a lot of time inside the head of one grieving professor, was regarded by some buyers as a bigger marketing challenge. Ford doesn't disagree about the difficulty; he said Monday night that "If you spend an hour and a half in a movie theater, it should challenge you."

One model for marketing the pic would be Focus' release of "Far From Heaven," a story that also touched on being gay in mid-century America and also starred Moore. That pic earned four Oscar noms and $16 million domestically, but that was in 2002, a different climate for specialty films.

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Despite speculation that "Man" would jump-start acquisitions, a number of high-profile pics, including Atom Egoyan's "Chloe" and the Bill Murray starrer "Get Low," were still in play.

A deal for the Israeli war pic "Lebanon" was said to be imminent, with Sony Pictures Classics and IFC in the lead positions to pick up Samuel Maoz's foreign-language festival fave.