March 4, 2021

Sony Pictures Bets on Dramas for Grown-Ups

Mr. Lynton referred to an eruption of pictures, 11 in all, that have turned his company into a dominant presence among American film distributors at the Toronto International Film Festival, which often sets patterns that hold through the movie awards season.

Mr. Lynton spoke on Friday evening in Sony’s lush hospitality suite at the Ritz-Carlton hotel here. He had just ducked out of a gala across the street, where Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman and other stars were introducing Sony’s baseball-themed drama “Moneyball.” Soon he would head off to another gala to promote “The Ides of March,” another Sony drama that is dropping into the Oscar season.

“Anonymous,” an Elizabethan-era thriller starring Rhys Ifans, is a third entry from Sony’s flagship Columbia Pictures unit, while Sony Pictures Classics, an art house division, is contributing no fewer than eight films to the festival.

It is an extraordinary showing, in a year when Warner Brothers, Disney and the main studio labels at Fox, and Universal Studios, laid low.

In the last half-decade, some studios folded or sold small-film units like Warner Independent Pictures and Disney’s Miramax Films, while others severely curtailed their commitment to the adult dramas that frequently turn into prize contenders. Now the grown-up side of Hollywood, in some quarters, at least, is experiencing a resurgence.

Newer distributors like Relativity Media, with its Africa-based social drama “Machine Gun Preacher,” or Summit Entertainment, with its cancer-themed “50-50,” are stirring up the festival circuit.

Meanwhile, some of the established players — notably Sony, as well as the Weinstein Company, which has landed in Toronto with six films — are releasing surprisingly robust slates of thoughtful, star-heavy movies, the kind of pictures that only a few years ago appeared headed toward extinction.

“These are the kind of movies, people said, ‘Oh, they’re not making them any more,’ ” said Mr. Lynton. He insisted that his own company never stopped producing popular yet sophisticated films, like “Julie Julia” or the less successful remake of “All the King’s Men.” But, he said, it stumbled into a bounty of them this year with projects that came together all at once.

Sony last year narrowly missed in its bid for a best picture Oscar, as its prime candidate, “The Social Network,” was edged by the Weinstein Company’s entry, “The King’s Speech.” Released late in the season, “The King’s Speech” took the Oscar after “The Social Network,” directed by David Fincher, swept up the early honors.

This time, Sony is looking for the late-year advantage with Mr. Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” which is set for release on Dec. 21.

“The whole academy process remains a complete mystery to me,” said Mr. Lynton. Still, his company is sending an entire fleet of films into the season, perhaps the least expected being “Anonymous.”

Directed by Roland Emmerich, who is best known for planet-wrecking fare like “Godzilla” and “2012,” the new film tells a complicated story of 16th-century court intrigues in which a nearly illiterate ne’er-do-well actor, Will Shakespeare, earns public credit for a brilliant collection of plays that, as the movie tells it, were written by someone else.

“I was stunned,” said Mr. Lynton of the film, which plays as if it were directed by someone with art house credentials rather than Mr. Emmerich’s slate of blockbusters. Its audacious revisionism is bound to recall another alternative history, “Shakespeare in Love,” that won the best picture Oscar in 1999.

On Monday, the Weinstein Company’s movie, “W.E.,” will be shown. The movie was directed by Madonna, and tells a love story involving Wallis Simpson and the abdication of King Edward VIII — and took some serious critical hits when it was shown on at the Venice Film Festival.

“It’s in focus, which is more than can be said for the script,” Leslie Felperin wrote for Variety in one of the less brutal reviews.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=7995323bc728769d8b81e32dae161649

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