Mickey Rourke, Rachel Wood, The Wrestler

Protozoa Pictures/Saturn Films

Dealmakers at the 2008 Toronto Film Fest suffered a serious case of buyers' remorse when only one film snapped up at the event, The Visitor, showed something resembling a healthy profit.

So you had to figure there would be hangover this year. There was. And then came Mickey Rourke.

After an all-night bidding war Sunday, Fox Searchlight body-slammed the opposition and won U.S. distribution rights for The Wrestler for a reported $4 million-$5 million. Starring unlikely Oscar bait Rourke as past-his-prime grappler, and Evan Rachel Wood, the Darren Aronofsky-helmed film just scored the Golden Lion prrize at the Venice Film Festival last weekend.

Sony Pictures, Weinstein Co. and Lionsgate were also reportedly in the bidding, before Searchlight, with its rep as a leading marketer and distributor for speciality film products, won the day.

Last year's way-too-serious dramas may have dampened spirits and pocketbooks at Toronto, but this year's crowd-pleasing comedies, dramas and love stories have audiences and buyers powered up.

Some other done deals in recent days:

  • Control Alt Delete, a slacker comedy about a Y2K programmer with a hard drive for his computer, was snatched up by Maximum Films, a day before the film's world premiere. Featuring a mostly Canadian cast led by Reaper's Tyler Labine (Reaper) along with Sonja Bennett (Dead Zone, Eureka) and Laura Bertram (Andromeda), Control Alt Delete was a no-brainer for Maximum. "It's always satisfying to find a great film and even more so when it showcases Canadian talent," says the company's managing director, Bryan Gliserman.
  • Wolfe Releasing, Logo and PS Classics have joined in the acquisition of American Tom Gustafson's Were The World Mine, a love potion comedy with a cast of unknowns that won audience awards at a few smaller North American film festivals. Distribution of the film will be divided—with Wolfe handling DVD release and all digital rights that are extensions of home entertainment.
  • Skin, based on the true story of a black girl with white parents in segregated South Africa and starring Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill and Alice Krige, landed distribution deals for several European markets.
  • Other films drawing interest include: the LeBron James documentary More Than a Game, the musical doc Every Little Step and the family fantasy The Secret of Moonacre.

"Toronto looks really promising," Arianna Bocco, film buyer for IFC Films, says of this year's fest. "There's a wider range of titles and something for everyone." Bocco was busy, too, snaring the Swedish family drama Everlasting Moments.

Not every film has found a home. The Jennifer Aniston-fronted romantic comedy Management, one of the fest's higher profile premieres, hasn't had any takers yet. But expect Aniston to make friends with a distributor before the fest concludes this weekend.

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