The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), known for screening films that have gone on to become awards season darlings, has been the unofficial opener of Oscar season for the better part of the last two decades. Best Picture winner American Beauty began the trend back in 1999, with films like Slumdog Millionaire, (winner of eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director in 1998), Silver Linings Playbook (nominated for eight, winning Best Actress for breakout star Jennifer Lawrence in 2013) and three-time Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave solidifying TIFF's "Kingmaker" title.

The opening weekend of TIFF 2015 is arguably the most important three days of the Toronto movie festival, with the world's media converging on Toronto to interview Hollywood Celebrities while smaller films hope to be seen -- and bought -- by major industry players in attendance. By Monday morning, there is generally a feel for a film or actor's Oscar-worthiness and a wild tale of an independent production being picked up for distribution: Chris Rock's Top Five broke sales records at last year's TIFF when it was purchased by Paramount Pictures for a reported $12.5mil.

This year, the weekend has come and gone, with little fanfare outside the niche industry huddled inside Toronto. Ridley Scott's The Martian created a ripple with comparisons to 2014's Interstellar, but critics appear torn as to the film's Academy Awards viability -- reviews have skewed highly positive, but big budget space films are rarely taken seriously by awards voters - Sandra Bullock's Gravity being an outstanding exception.

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The highly anticipated Hank Williams biopic -  I Saw the Light earned praise for its British lead actor, Tom Hiddleston, but the general consensus was the film fell flat with The Guardian calling Hiddleston's performance "electric," but the film itself "dull...slow, downbeat, [and] frequently creepy."

Acquisitions low at this year's festival

As for small film acquisitions, the only big story to tell is that of Florian Gallenberger's Colonia. Starring Emma Watson and Daniel Bruhl, domestic buyers are pinning their hopes on the star power of the film's leads to launch the picture.

As of this writing, no deal has been made, but there are reportedly multiple studios in talks to purchase rights to the film. However, the most money is changing hands over films not screening at the festival -- many are still in production.

Paramount Pictures picked up Stephen Frear's Florence Foster Jenkins after previewing twelve minutes of the film during an industry-only screening. Starring Meryl Streep as a real-life amateur opera singer, the studio reportedly paid between $8-10mil and is hoping for a 2016 awards season release.

Also purchased in the hours following a Festival screening session was Miss Sloane starring two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain. A source told THR that EuropaCorp scored the film, about a gun-control lobbyist, in a deal landing in "the high teen-millions." 

The festival might continue to be a predictor for Academy Award success, but fans may have to wait another year to see what successes came from the 40th anniversary edition of TIFF.

 

 

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