Toronto Film Festival Takeaways: Slow Market, Oscar Buzz and Netflix Comeback

The Toronto Film Festival is back in spectacular fashion after two years of virtual premieres or limited capacity screenings. The parties were packed (which could lead to COVID outbreaks along the way, but … is this show business?), The red carpets glittered and the atmosphere was electric, bordering on euphoria, like the director Rian Johnson’s acclaimed sequel “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story,” Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical “The Fabelmans” and Harry Styles-directed romantic drama “My Policeman” debuted in Canada to blockbuster-hungry audiences Hollywood seemed eager to make up for lost time, so as the curtain falls on the TIFF, here’s a look at the top 10-day festival trends and takeaways.

Venice casts a long shadow

Toronto has spent years cultivating a reputation as the perfect catapult in awards season. In 2022, however, the Venice International Film Festival filled with unbeatable warmth by hosting highly anticipated films such as “Blonde”, “Don’t Worry Darling” and “The Whale”, as well as offering remarkable star power in the form by Timothee Chalamet, Brad Pitt, Ana de Armas, Florence Pugh and Rege-Jean Page. The shadow cast by Venice was very long, so much so that many at TIFF complained about second-run screenings, such as “The Whale”, “The Son” by Hugh Jackman and director Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy “The Banshees of Inisherin “. Toronto certainly had bragging rights, most notably the sizzling premiere of “The Fabelmans” and the appearances of A-listers including Jennifer Lawrence and Harry Styles, who lit up the streets with the debuts of “Causeway” and “My Policeman” . However, the celebration of Canadian cinema struggled to compete for the same attention (and headlines) as its Italian counterpart.

Great movies … but will they make money?

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Sequel”, “The Woman King” and “The Fabelmans” led by Viola Davis were enthusiastically received at TIFF, but those films – and other audience pleasures like Billy’s romantic comedy “Bros” Eichner and “The Banshees of Inisherin” – could be a question mark in terms of financial gains. The barometer of “Glass Onion” success, for example, will be confusing because, unlike 2019’s “Knives Out”, a commercial winner that grossed more than $ 300 million worldwide, the highly anticipated sequel is not. in programming in many cinemas. After Lionsgate released the first movie, Netflix shelled out $ 450 million for two subsequent ones in an effort to increase (and retain) streaming subscribers rather than sell tickets. This means that there probably won’t be a tangible way to determine the general public’s continued affinity with Daniel Craig detective Benoit Blanc.

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As for “The Woman King”, “The Fabelmans”, “Bros” and “Banshees”, those films will be released on the big screen in an environment that has shown that older audiences will go to the movies, but they are just extremely selective about that. who are willing to leave the house to see. “The Fabelmans” has Spielberg behind it, but is a few decades away from hits like “Jurassic Park” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” having spent most of his more recent years in adult-oriented films. His latest film, “West Side Story,” garnered rave reviews and a lot of Oscar attention, but lost tens of millions in its theatrical run. Will an emerging generation of viewers care about the early years of the man who made “The Post”?

Where is the Oscar favorite?

“The Whale” received an ecstatic standing ovation. “The Son” had its fans … and that’s right vocal detractors. “Glass Onion” enchanted the masses with its delicious twists. And “The Fabelmans” connected with the festival crowd (although there are some complaints that some parts are stupid). But after Venice and Telluride failed to nab an infallible Oscar favorite, all eyes were on Toronto to make sense of a lackluster pitch. And largely he failed to do so. Spielberg’s song about himself probably leaves Canada with more juice, and God knows Hollywood loves movies about making films (see “The Artist”, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, “Day For Night”, ” Sunset Boulevard “and many more of other Oscar nominees and winners). But if he wants to clear the field, Spielberg will have to pay a lot of homage to screenings and lunches, something he’s been reluctant to do in the past.

As for the other films, they have their own partisans, but they seem far more divisive than the contenders from past award seasons. And there aren’t that many films to choose from, which according to strategists and award producers is due to the problems the studios faced in completing projects during the pandemic. Some experts believe “The Whale” star Brendan Fraser is more of a lock than the film that features his impressive performance, and other well-received films like “The Banshees of Inisherin” may be too bizarre to earn much love from the Academy. Awards. Does this mean that contenders for the latest prize like Damien Chazelle’s exuberant ode to showbiz “Babylon” might come up at the right time? Or does it give a jump to previous favorites, like “Top Gun: Maverick”? It’s still an all-out race.

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RIP to All-Night Bidding Wars

In the past, TIFF awards such as Chris Rock’s “Top Five”, Neil Jordan’s “Greta”, “Still Alice” with Julianne Moore and “Bad Education” with Hugh Jackman have garnered great deals at the festival. But this year, the market has mostly been moribund and the studio executives haven’t suffered many sleepless nights stuck in negotiations. Instead, the agencies saved their most spectacular projects for AFM or used Cannes to present them to buyers. There was a film that managed to defy the odds. Alexander Payne sold the worldwide rights of “The Holdovers” to Focus Features for $ 30 million, an impressive deal that proved to be the exception to the rule.

Netflix gets a much needed win

It’s been a rough few months for the streamer, between the stock slide and the mass layoffs he’s been forced to put in place. Things didn’t go much better in Telluride or Venice, where Netflix hit with premieres of Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise” and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Bardo (False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths)”, with the latter. who has earned a particularly ferocious criticisms. Enter “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” which has received rave reviews and, at least based on the thunderous laughter and thunderous applause it inspired during its premiere, a warm hug from TIFF attendees. He may also be the strongest contender for Netflix’s awards. Was it worth all the money the company shelled out for the rights to the film and its sequel? He remains to be seen, but he gave the streamer a shot in the arm at a time when he was desperate for a win.

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Hostile printing strategy

Ticket problems aside, the festival wasn’t exactly fond of reporters when it announced that press conferences for “The Fabelmans” and other premieres would not accommodate media inquiries in the hall. Instead, reporters were asked to submit their questions digitally a day in advance, presumably in an effort to avoid replicating awkward moments with talent that took place in Venice. Eventually, the so-called “press conferences” became de facto questions and answers between festival CEO Cameron Bailey and the film’s creative teams, leaving little room for any journalistic questioning. To be honest, most members of the press generally avoid grilling the stars at festivals anyway. The move stands in contrast to reporters in Cannes, Berlin and Venice, where directors and their cast address the Fourth Estate and, with the occasional exception, like last year’s scheduled press conference for “The French Dispatch” by Wes Anderson, I’m a no-brainer ball.

Pulled previews

Films that are eliminated for rights issues are a perennial on the film festival’s bingo card, but the TIFF has courted its fair share of drama this year with two high-profile films that were ripped before or shortly after theirs. preview. Ulrich Seidl’s “Sparta”, an uncomfortable portrait of a man with pedophile tendencies, was cut from the program hours before its world premiere on 9 September following a September 2 investigation by the German magazine Der Spiegel which reported numerous allegations. of impropriety and child exploitation against the Austrian director (all that he denied). Variety revealed that the film will premiere in San Sebastian in Spain next week, but Toronto – at the last minute – evidently wanted nothing to do with the film. Meanwhile, the Midnight Madness movie “The People’s Joker,” an unauthorized origin story about Batman’s nemesis, was withdrawn by director Vera Drew following its world premiere due to “rights issues” with Warner Bros. Discovery. Both scenarios aren’t necessarily unfamiliar at film festivals, but the concrete timing for each has raised eyebrows.

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