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Toronto 2010: Rainn Wilson, cinephile favorite (and other sales notes from a festival soon ending)

September 18, 2010 | 11:00 pm

Pee
So much for festival obscurities.

The Toronto International Film Festival may be wrapping up this weekend, but it turns out that it won't be the end of the road for many of the films that played here. An eye-popping number of movies have been sold in the last 10 days; roughly a dozen (give or take one or two, depending on how you date a couple of  the acquisitions).

The last 24 hours have brought a trio of deals. "Conspirator" conspirators Lionsgate and Roadside again teamed up, this time to buy the Will Ferrell drama "Everything Must Go." Given how both companies seem to like those actorly pieces -- Lionsgate will try to retail Nicole Kidman and "Rabbit Hole" this fall, and Roadside has this year's art-house best actress favorite with Jennifer Lawrence and "Winter's Bone" -- it's a snug fit.

Meanwhile, Oscilloscope continues to earn its reputation as an aesthete's label. The company run by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch picked up the Western-flavored, art-house atmospherics of Kelly Reichardt's "Meek's Cutoff," a movie that's been well-received but that's also so aggressively minimalist that it makes the director's previous "Wendy & Lucy" (also with Michelle Williams, and also bought by O-scope) seem like "Transformers."

IFC, for its part, continues its snap-happy ways, taking rights to the star-heavy "Peep World." This one's a particular eye-catcher; the dysfunctional-family comedy with Rainn Wilson, Michael C. Hall and Sarah Silverman is about as far from IFC's art-house wheelhouse as you can get. But clearly the company likes the names involved, and, given the relative paucity of buyers at the fest, no doubt the price.

It's not the first time at this festival that the New York firm has made an uncharacteristic purchase,. The company got things going by buying another Rainn Wilson movie, the "Kick-Ass"-esque  "Super."

All of these sales -- along with Dave Matthews' ATO Pictures buying "Casino Jack," the Weinstein Co. going for "Dirty Girl" and "Submarine," and onward -- point to a bit of a paradox in the indie film world.

The reduction in the number of buyers was supposed to, on its face, lead to a reduction in the amount of sales (and thus movies the rest of us will be able to see in theaters).

But a funny thing happened on the way to the doldrums. A lot of these movies continued to get made, and needed to get distribution. The companies left standing suddenly found themselves with some potentially sweet deals on their hands, so they moved quickly. Three or four years ago, it's not a stretch to say that producers of some of these films would have held out for more money than a Roadside or IFC typically pays, and the films would have sat untouched. Not this year. Fewer distributors, it turns out, doesn't mean fewer distributed movies.

The general strategic wisdom may yet be in question : Does IFC have the infrastructure or marketing chops to make a movie similar to "Kick-Ass" work, when the far larger Lionsgate struggled to do so?

But for the rest of us, this is good news. In the last few years, many movies that didn't have distribution coming in to a festival lacked it on the way out. This year they do, which means we will be able to see them.  Get ready for Redford, Rainn and Reichardt's "Red River."

--Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Peep World. Credit: Occupant Films

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