The main fall festivals, Venice, Telluride and Toronto, always clue us in on how the studios position their 4th quarter films in terms of box office and/or awards contention. The past decade has seen every Best Picture Oscar winner since 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire play at Telluride and is the last stat standing in terms of using history to predict a winner. Last season’s winner, The Shape of Water, broke two long-standing stats – being a December release (a 14-year stat) and not being SAG cast nominated (a 23-year stat). While Telluride won’t announce their slate until just before the festival at the end of the month, the announcements from Venice and Toronto (and more importantly, what type of premiere they get) can tell us what is likely to end up there.
For example, Fox Searchlight’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? with Melissa McCarthy and Sony’s The Front Runner with Hugh Jackman will both play TIFF but are listed as ‘International Premieres’ which means they haven’t premiered in their original country yet. They are both going to hit Telluride first (August 31st-September 3rd).
Toronto will be the first look at some major Oscar hopefuls this year with long-anticipated follow-ups from Steve McQueen (Widows) and Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk) and Venice is no shrug with two world premieres, also of follow-ups from Oscar-winning directors – Damien Chazelle’s First Man and Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA. It will also house the world premiere of The Favourite, which is bypassing TIFF (but probably not Telluride).
The New York Film Festival has its three main slots locked down: Opening Night will be The Favourite, ROMA is the Centerpiece and At Eternity’s Gate for Closing Night. For the first time in a long though, none of these will be world premieres. All three will debut first at Venice.
Warner Bros is pulling out all the stops for Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut A Star Is Born, starring Lady Gaga and himself. It will WP at Venice but also hit TIFF and I’m predicting Telluride as well.
The big mystery though is what is going on with Focus Features. While they already have a Cannes winner in the bag with BlacKkKlansman, no announcements for their three other awards pushes – Boy Erased, Mary Queen of Scots and On the Basis of Sex – have left Oscar prognosticators in a tizzy. Inevitably, at least two of those will end up in either TIFF’s announcement next week or Telluride’s WP lineup. I’m figuring those two are Boy Erased and/Mary Queen of Scots with On the Basis of Sex (and its new Christmas debut) to be more of a box office play with the chance of a nom or two. Intrepid users found some (possible) placement holders for a few titles but we won’t really know until next week.
It’s important to note that while it’s not crucial to world premiere at Telluride, showing up there has proven to be a clincher for a Best Picture win. That stat may very well be the next to fall (it has to at some point) for the likes of Cannes winner and August debut BlacKkKlansman. That said, although Venice and Toronto have already given us an embarrassment of riches for WPs we could see some surprises there in the form of Green Book, Share or Destroyer hitting the mountain first.
Check out the list of high-profile World Premieres at this year’s major festivals, where else they’re showing and what’s still up in the air…