Toronto film fest builds buzz, but business is off

Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:17pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto International Film Festival reached its midpoint on Tuesday with films like the "The Descendants" and actor Michael Fassbender winning praise, but a nagging question about the future of dark dramas in Hollywood has hovered over the event.

Toronto, which along with recently wrapped festivals in Venice and Telluride, helps launch the movie awards season and industry pros gather here to build buzz for their films. Yet, while some dramas here have been praised for their stories and characters, few business deals have been made to put many of those movies into theaters.

Industry observers, such as Sony Pictures Classics head Michael Barker, said that while Toronto is "the ideal way to launch a film," there have been fewer deals made so far due to some content being considered a hard sell for consumers.

"Regarding new films that haven't been acquired, my personal belief is it's been slower than in previous years," Barker told Reuters.

Among the more popular work has been George Clooney's starring role as a soul-searching father in "The Descendants," as well as his directing and acting in political thriller "The Ides of March."

Clooney showed up on the red carpet for debuts of both films. "The Descendants," from Alexander Payne who directed the Oscar-winning "Sideways," brings a familiar blend of comedy and tragedy set this time against a Hawaiian backdrop. It earned a standing ovation at its premiere.


"Shame," which was acquired by Fox Searchlight before the festival but may be a hard sell in theaters for various full frontal nudity and sex scenes, won over critics for British director Steve McQueen and lead actor Fassbender, an award winner at last week's Venice film festival.   Continued...