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2010 Toronto Film Festival: Part 2

by Jeff Steele

As expected, the buyers at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival spent much of its first weekend milking the wait-and-see tactic to great affect.  By Sunday, many sales agents were lamenting to me that they weren’t getting any traction at this “market” and were expecting it to be somewhat of a bust.  Buyers, however, are human too and can only maintain their collective composure for so long before they began picking up product on Tuesday and Wednesday.  It’s still a buyers’ market and this approach has effectively turned recent festivals into Dutch Auctions, where the price is reduced until a buyer is found.  A conspiracy theorist could assume they all got together at Cannes and collectively agreed not buy anything the first weekend. 

*** Live Hard, Die Harder ***

This festival may not be a feeding frenzy, but at least deals are being made and some traditional bidding is going on.  I’m hoping that this Toronto, plus the upcoming AFM in November, will be the final shakeout of any remaining films that were produced during the 2005-2009 hedge-fund, super-gap heyday.  It’s taken a lot of Market-Strength Drano to clear this massive clog — most of which ended up going straight to video.  It can be hard to accept that this is a healthy correction when it’s your film (and livelihood) that’s hanging in the balance.  But the good news is…time marches on.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Shawn permalink
    September 16, 2010

    Great image. Clever.

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  2. Matt permalink
    September 16, 2010

    Hopefully the patience of buyers is a result of better business sense. The practice of buying smart and not making deals willy-nilly seems like a step up from the heyday.

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    • Jeff Steele permalink
      September 16, 2010

      I would be doing the same thing, if I were a buyer.

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  3. BenL permalink
    September 17, 2010

    Thanks for the update. I wonder if this trend will signal a flight to more “commercial/bankable” projects over small or riskier projects as buyers appetites change.

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  4. September 18, 2010

    Thanks for the feedback, Jeff.

    Yes, I guess you’re right, “time marches on.”

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  5. Chris english permalink
    September 24, 2010

    In hard dollars (or euro’s) rather than percent of GTV, for film budgets under $20 million, what are the highest $$ paid in the past few years for foreign pre-sales? And what do the numbers coming out of Toronto look like? Is there – or could there be – a public repository for this stuff – like on your website which is really outstanding – if short on hard data.

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    • Jeff Steele permalink
      September 24, 2010

      Hi Chris, there currently is no repository for this kind of infomation, though I do know one person who claims to be building one. Presales by their very nature are usually lower than festival sales because the film hasn’t been made yet. It’s more about knowing who to ask in a given scenario. On the surface, “Paranormal Activity” was an obvious worldwide success story and it did presell very well around the world, but as a video title (not a feature) — what it did have however were very generous box office bonuses baked into the contracts, which ultimately paid off tremendously.
      Thanks for the kudos — I try to keep this site focused more on practical knowledge and wisdom that can be applied daily, as opposed to statistics and graphs.

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