Toronto and Beyond

The recently concluded Toronto Film Festival is amongst the world’s major film festivals worth attending in terms of prestige, prominence and film sales.    Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has become an essential stops in the march toward Awards Season with many films using the festival as their major release. With easy flights from Hollywood or New York to Toronto, the festival has become – with Indie Sundance – the two most important film festivals in North America.   The good part is that Toronto features both emerging filmmakers as well as established (and over the hill) filmmakers too.   Many films come right from their premieres in the Venice film festival too.  The Festival Trifecta on the calendar is the Venice-Toronto-Telluride run to really ramp up the publicity for one’s film.

Toronto Tone

From several reliable sources, the festival buyer’s are becoming more and more selective in their purchases.  The “A” list films are well-received and sought after.  Films perceived in the “B” category are falling off – or are not selling at all.  And the “A” list films are farther and fewer between for High Quality talent with great storylines.   The usual “B” actors in the “B” list films like the Alec Baldwins, etc., aren’t attracting strong buys.  This shift was very noticeable from the Cannes Film Festival into the Toronto film festival.

Sales agents going into a major sales have a film with two columns.  One is “Ask” – the amount that you are asking for the rights to the film in a given territory.  The second column is “Take” – the minimum amount accepted for the film’s rights.   So, for example, a film would Ask for $1,000,000 for the film – all rights including theatrical, DVD, SVOD, TV etc., – for Germany.  But the “Take” might be $800,000 or $700,000.  It’s human negotiations at their most basic, like haggling over rugs for the last 10,000 years.  In this case, it just happens to be films.

Lower Sales, Too Much Content

In numerous cases, many films had to take much less than their “Take” to make a sales.  Like 30-40-50% less than their “Take”.  Since many films are counting on sales to either boost their companies or complete the film’s financing or reduce the equity exposure, this reduced sale is a financial disaster for films.   A key strategy in is recognizing that the market is changing.  Rapidly.

Changing Landscape

A number of factors are contributing to this market shift IMO:

Rise of SVOD

Audience shift in behavior (binge-watching; avoiding theaters and favoring streaming, etc.,

Increased American production costs – union costs and bureacratic film structures

Access to Technology – digital (vs. costly film) has only increased talent pools of skills and more content.


The next big market is the American Film Market where the “A” titles will sell, but I think the “B” titles (not to mention the “C” titles) will crash through the floor.