Toronto's film buyers see the light

Mon Sep 8, 2008 1:59am EDT
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By Steven Zeitchik and Borys Kit

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - The Toronto International Film Festival has lightened up this year.

While sales got off to a slow start during the packed first weekend, the festival itself showed a clear split -- the uplifting and lighter pictures resonated while the darker films tended to strike out.

"Last year it seemed like ever movie could win an Oscar. At TIFF this year it's not the same deal," said Kevin Smith, who had one of the breakouts with its crowd-pleasing raunchy comedy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," from the Weinstein Co. "But it's okay to lighten up once in a while."

Darren Aronofksy's "The Wrestler," riding a triumphant wave after its Golden Lion win in Venice, earned a gushing response at its Sunday night premiere in Toronto. Many lead buyers were in attendance and a deal was expected with a day or so.

Though a drama that plumbs one man's ups and downs, the film offers uplift as it marks several comebacks. With their tale of a wrestler making one last push for glory, both the film's star Mickey Rourke and its director Aronofsky (who whiffed with his "The Fountain" at Toronto two years ago) are making their own comebacks of sorts.?

The title garnered momentum after its Friday Venice debut and was on the lips of every buyer, with the feeling that an acquirer would have to turn around and release the pic -- and go into awards mode -- quickly.

The sales scene, as expected, has taken its time getting going. But that doesn't seem to have depressed anyone's spirits. It's a notable turnaround from 2007, when dark films dominated the festival and the fall season that followed. This year, both the industry and the festival-goers are sparking to the decidedly lighter fare.

"Who said independent films had to be bummers and Hollywood films had to be fun?" said Mark Urman, the outgoing ThinkFilm executive who's taking over as president of Senator Entertainment U.S.   Continued...

<p>Actress Tilda Swinton arrives at the "Burn After Reading" gala during the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival, September 5, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>