By Mary Milliken
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A trio of highly anticipated dramas slated for the Toronto Film Festival opening next week will instead premiere at the smaller Telluride Film Festival over the weekend, according to the line-up released on Thursday.
"The Imitation Game," starring Benedict Cumberbatch as British World War II code-breaker Alan Turing and "Wild" featuring Reese Witherspoon as a heart-broken woman trekking solo over hundreds of miles of wilderness are among the 25 new feature films in Telluride's main program.
The directorial debut of comedian and "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, "Rosewater," the true story of a BBC journalist imprisoned in Iran, will also show in the Colorado mountain town's event, now in its 41st year.
Telluride and Toronto are both considered kick-offs to Oscar season and competition between them heated up this year after the Canadian festival refused to program films in the first four days that premiered elsewhere.
That decision came after high-profile movies like Oscar winner "12 Years a Slave" went to Telluride before Toronto last year and stole thunder from the Canadian showcase.
The rule change put filmmakers and studios in a bind, because they like to build buzz around their films in stages. Missing the first four days at Toronto, when the festival draws the most media attention, could reduce their exposure.
Minutes after the line-up was released, Stewart told Reuters that, as a newcomer to the film world, "ignorance was bliss" and he wasn't "that familiar with that type controvery."
"I think there is more of a sense of feeling pretty fortunate to be involved with both" festivals, Stewart said.
Telluride is a small gathering of industry elite, film writers and film buffs, while Toronto is a behemoth, screening 285 feature films from Sept. 4 to 14. The drama "12 Years a Slave" won the top award there, voted by ordinary moviegoers, and went on to win the best picture Oscar.
Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Birdman" generated Oscar buzz after opening the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday, and will also show at Telluride, which runs Friday to Monday.
(Reporting by Mary Milliken; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Gunna Dickson)