By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com September 18, 2012 at 11:00AM
TIFF remains one of the biggest distribution markets in the world, and with the festival now over, some distributors are walking away with some big prizes. Focus Features took "The Place Beyond The Pines," Lionsgate and/or Roadside Attractions bought a wealth of pictures, including "Imogene," "Thanks For Sharing" and "Stories We Tell," Anchor Bay landed Rob Zombie's "The Lords Of Salem," IFC Films grabbed "Frances Ha" Magnolia won "The Brass Teapot" Dimension picked up "Aftershock," and Sony Pictures Classics took "Wadjda," and these are just a few of the deals that went down at the festival.
But like the skinny kids picked last for the team, there's still a few films standing around on the sidelines, including some that we'd figured would spark off bidding wars, which were seemingly dampened by disappointed critical reactions. Discussions are undoubtedly still ongoing, and we'd expect to see many of these films picked up in the weeks and months ahead. But to close off TIFF, we've picked out five (technically six) high-profile pictures that are still looking for distributors, and examined why they weren't snapped up faster, and where they might eventually land. Read on below.
Of all the expectations mounted upon the new Terrence Malick film, "To The Wonder," a critical evisceration wasn't one of them, especially given that it came only months after "The Tree Of Life" got a Best Picture nomination and came close to broaching the Sight & Sound Top 100 poll. That film was greeted by boos at Cannes, but it was nothing compared to the vitriolic reviews of its follow-up from many quarters (although we, and many others, liked it a great deal). As such, it's not wildly surprising that 'Wonder' has yet to find a home. It feels that, given the reviews, someone like Fox Searchlight, who took "The Tree Of Life," are probably out of the running at this point, given that the 'Wonder' is unlikely to come anywhere near its predecessor's relatively modest box office haul ($13 million domestic). But there's still money to be made for a smart distributor -- the big-name cast will bring in a certain crowd (particularly if word spreads of the film's sexual content...), Malick has a certain fanbase, and curious cinephiles will want to see for themselves. Reports that UK distributor StudioCanal are considering sending the film direct to DVD are bogus, and in the U.S. it'd be a smart pick up for someone like Oscilloscope, who acquired the Malick-esque "Wuthering Heights" after TIFF last year, and who could use a high-profile buy to show that they're still in the game after the passing of founder Adam Yauch earlier in the year. We expect it won't be too long before the film finds a home.
Speaking of critically derided features from respected auteurs, "Passion" got a pretty poisonous reception at both Venice and TIFF. A few De Palma die hards were on board, but many outright loathed the film (our man on the ground walked out), or were a bit nonplussed, like our Venice review -- which came from a big fan of the filmmaker. Either way, few find it to be much of a step up from the dismal "The Black Dahlia" and "Redacted," so again, the film not finding distribution yet isn't an enormous surprise. In a way, the cast aren't hugely helpful -- Noomi Rapace isn't really proven as a solo lead ("Prometheus" wasn't exactly sold on her), and Rachel McAdams can be a big draw, but less so when she's outside her comfort zone, as she is here. That said, given the murder and sapphism, it's still a reasonably commercial proposition, and while hopes of the film landing at a mini-major like Lionsgate, let alone a studio, are probably slim by now, we think a genre-minded distributor with a VOD leaning -- someone like Magnolia, if they weren't put off by the terrible $65,000 gross of "Redacted," admittedly a more difficult sell, or even Anchor Bay, could probably make a decent amount of money on the film. Don't expect it to skip theaters, but a simultaneous theatrical/on-demand rollout is probably the best bet for something like this.