All of these films will likely be screening in the all-important first four days of the festival, from Thursday (Sept. 4) to Sunday (Sept. 7), when media attention is the strongest and when movies set for release in the coming award season can be made or broken.
But not on the list, at least as of now (another round of main feature announcements happens next month), are two of the most anticipated movies of the year: "Fury," the World War II story starring
There are all kinds of reasons big films might skip major festivals. But these movies, along with some other high-profile ones, may not wind up at Toronto because of a more specific reason--namely, a decision by Toronto's leaders to adopt a rule that plays hardball in the wake of the rise of a rival, the Telluride Film Festival, traditionally held the weekend before Toronto.
The change is born of a quietly competitive realm of the entertainment business in which Toronto — long the North American showcase for the biggest fall films — felt it has been losing ground.
Take last year. Awards and commercial favorites such as "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity" and
While technically just sneaks, these screenings amounted to de facto premieres, Toronto organizers argued. Telluride's growing profile was depriving their festival, leaders felt, of some of the attention one gets from having a true premiere — and in festival currency, nothing is more valuable than being the first place to show a movie.
So a number of months ago, Toronto festival director Piers Handling and artistic director Cameron Bailey implemented a new policy. Films that screen at Telluride the previous weekend will not be eligible to screen in Toronto's opening four days. And indeed, if "Gravity" or "12 Years" were to have come out in 2014 and followed the same Telluride path, neither would be eligible to play the first weekend of Toronto.
There are some significant consequences to this decision, at least as far as festivals are concerned. Because the new policy means studios must essentially choose between Telluride and Toronto, there will be more true world premieres at Toronto this year. On the other hand, it also means that some films will choose Telluride and won't be at Toronto at all. (Of course, it's also possible at least some movies end up at Toronto because Telluride, with a much smaller slate, ends up passing on them; these decisions aren't always in a studio's hands.)
The reduction in the overall number of movies Toronto now has to choose from may be one reason why the festival slate contains a surprisingly big commercial thriller like Antoine Fuqua's "The Equalizer" reboot starring
(Incidentally, among the directors premiering their new movies at Toronto — all dramedies of a sort — are Reitman with a movie called "Men, Women & Children," Baumbach with "While We're Young" and
Toronto has also had to contend with an ascendant
Interestingly, at least two high-profile movies,
Whether this new Toronto strategy will work remains to be seen. Judging by the rich slate, Bailey appears to have made the calculation — correctly — that, forced to choose, most studios would opt for Toronto, a big, glitzy media-heavy affair, rather than Telluride, a smaller, shorter and more low-key event.
But some apparently feel otherwise. And that could turn out to be a consequential decision. If a "Fury" or "Unbroken" goes to Telluride and breaks out, Telluride will have proved it has the clout that its bigger counterpart has long claimed. If it doesn't, Toronto may have just reasserted its strength. And the studios could feel the effect too. Being forced to choose one festival over another means the stakes are that much higher at a given festival. .