Hollywood lowers the hype at Toronto film festival

Mon Sep 8, 2008 2:57pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

TORONTO (Reuters) - The stars are here but the Oscar hype is on low volume at the Toronto film festival this year as major studios hold their promotional fire for movies looking to win awards until later in the year.

Brad Pitt turned out on the first weekend to launch the comedy "Burn After Reading" by the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers that opens in theaters on Friday and Grammy winner Alicia Keys walked the red carpet for the drama "The Secret Life of Bees" due out in October.

But the feeling among industry watchers at the 2008 festival, which reached its midpoint on Monday, has been that it lacks the high-profile Oscar movies of recent years.

Reasons vary and include consolidation among makers of art house films. But sources all say one key factor is at work: last year Hollywood got burned, by itself.

"It's a thin festival. The studios with movies that are considered contenders this year didn't bring them," said David Poland, who runs the Web site Movie City News.

Together with the Venice film festival and a smaller event in Telluride, Colorado, the Toronto International Film Festival has in recent years been a key launch pad for movies hoping to win Oscars, which are given out in February.

Industry insiders and critics attend all three and a strong showing can build momentum that propels films to Oscars and other honors, a likely route to fame and box office fortune. A key example is 2005's gay cowboy romance "Brokeback Mountain."

Seeing a trend, Universal Pictures last year brought "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" starring Cate Blanchett to the Toronto festival and Warner Bros. pushed Pitt and Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."   Continued...

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