NEW YORK - Martin McDonaugh's "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'' took the Toronto International Film Festival's People's Choice Award on Sunday, an early bell-weather for Hollywood's coming awards season.
Piers Handling, chief executive and director of the festival, announced the awards for the 42nd annual Toronto festival.
The People's Choice Award, voted on by festival audiences, went to the British playwright's third feature film, which stars Frances McDormand as a mother who goes to war with police in her town after her daughter's murder.
"As much as we had a lovely time in Canada, and as much it seemed like the audiences had a good time, too, you never really know if a story that's as heartfelt but also as outrageous and funny and unusual as ours has really connected to, you know, real people,'' said McDonaugh ("In Bruges,'' "Seven Psychopaths,'') said in a statement. "So it's brilliant to hear that it has.''
Not since 2007's "Eastern Promises'' has a Toronto People's Choice winner failed to score an Academy Awards best-picture nomination. Many People's Choice winners have also gone on to win the Academy Awards' top honor, including "12 Years a Slave,'' "The King's Speech'' and "Slumdog Millionaire.''
"La La Land'' last year took Toronto's big prize but Damien Chazelle's musical ultimately lost to "Moonlight'' for best picture.
Fox Searchlight will release "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'' on Nov. 10.
This year's runner up went to Craig Gillespie's Tonya Harding tale "I, Tonya,'' starring Margot Robbie as the former Olympic ice skater. In one of the festival's biggest sales, "I, Tonya'' was acquired by Neon and 30West for $5 million.
The second runner up was "Call Me By Your Name,'' Luca Guadagnino's Italy-set coming-of-age story.
That film, which also drew raves at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year, is due for release Nov. 24 from Sony Pictures Classics.