The beauty of Sundance is the films. And, the 2022 festival is showcasing extraordinary World Cinema Documentary and NEXT films currently up for acquisition.
Stay tuned for more on these informative gems from the Sundance Film Festival, scheduled for January 20th to the 30th, 2022, in Park City, Utah!
ALL THAT BREATHES, Dir. Shaunak Sen (World Cinema Doc Competition) – Against the darkening backdrop of Delhi’s apocalyptic air and escalating violence, two brothers devote their lives to protect one casualty of the turbulent times: the bird known as the Black Kite. (Acquisition title. Sales: Submarine)
THE MISSION, Dir. Tania Anderson (World Cinema Doc Competition) – A revelation of the inner lives of young LDS missionaries as they leave their homes for the first time and travel to the other side of the world in an attempt to convert some of Europe’s most non-religious, private and skeptical people, the Finns, to their faith. (Acquisition title. Sales: Autlook) NOTHING COMPARES, Dir. Kathryn Ferguson (World Cinema Doc Competition) – The story of Sinéad O’Connor’s phenomenal rise to worldwide fame and her exile from the pop mainstream. Focusing on Sinéad’s prophetic words and deeds from 1987-1992, the film reflects on the legacy of this fearless trailblazer through a contemporary feminist lens. (Acquisition title. Sales: Submarine)
RIOTSVILLE, USA, Dir. Sierra Pettengill (NEXT) – Welcome to Riotsville, a fictional town built by the U.S. military. Using footage shot by the media and government, the film explores the militarization of the police and the reaction of a nation to the uprisings of the late ’60s, creating a counter-narrative to a critical moment in American history. (Acquisition title. Sales: Cinetic)
SIRENS, Dir. Rita Baghdadi (World Cinema Doc Competition) – On the outskirts of Beirut, Lilas and Shery, co-founders and guitarists of the Middle East’s first all-female metal band, wrestle with friendship, sexuality and destruction in their pursuit of becoming thrash metal rock stars. (Acquisition title. Sales: CAA)
TANTURA, Dir. Alon Schwarz (World Cinema Doc Competition – Day One Film) – In 1948, the State of Israel was established and war broke out. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed with their inhabitants killed or exiled. The film focuses on one village: Tantura, bringing to light Israel’s founding myth and its society’s inability to come to terms with its dark past. (Acquisition title. Sales: UTA)
TBA Studios adds another gem to its impressive catalog of diverse genre films from all over the globe with the recent distribution acquisition of the Malaysian thriller Lights Out (original title Siapa Tutup Lampu).
Lights Out is helmed by young and up-and-coming director Aliff Ihsan Rahman with a screenplay by Azhar Jalil and produced by Horizon Film Entertainment & Articulate Fusion Productions.
It follows the story of five friends (Akmal, Arif, Aryana, Azie, and Amir) who go on holiday to Genting Highlands. On the way home, they get involved in an accident that kills Amir. The other four are called to the morgue to identify Amir’s body.
While waiting for the doctor to arrive, they discover they are locked in the morgue, which is frequently disturbed by mysterious sights and sounds. It is most unsettling especially when the lights suddenly go out.
The four friends suspect that the entity bothering them is Amir’s restless spirit. While confined in the morgue, they each retell how they betrayed their friend, and their wrongdoings on Amir were revealed one by one. Will they all make it out of the morgue alive?
Recently completed, Lights Out has already generated buzz in its home country. This highly anticipated thriller stars Azizul Ammar, Uyaina Arshad, Naim Daniel, Azhar Jalil, Ismi Melinda, Afieq Shazwan, Geoff Andre Feyaerts, Melissa Campbell, and Mark O’Dea.
“We are planning a theatrical release of the film in Malaysia and Indonesia,” says Mohd Shahir Sulaiman, Managing Director of Horizon Film Entertainment. “With Cindy Sison of TBA Studios as our international sales agent, we are optimistic about reaching new audiences globally.”
Lights Out is one of the films TBA Studios is premiering at the American Film Market alongside other acquisitions such as the music documentary FANNY: The Right To Rock, urban crime thriller Boundary, and award-winning documentary A Is For Agustin.
TBA Studios is one of the leading film production and distribution companies in the Philippines known for its groundbreaking films such as historical epics General Luna, Goyo: The Boy General, and hit romcom I’m Drunk, I Love You.
To know more about TBA Studios or see updates on Lights Out, visit www.tba.ph
Over fifteen years in the making, House of Gucci, directed by Ridley Scott and based on the 2001 Sara Gay Forden novel, The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, is coming!
Featuring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, and Al Pacino, House of Gucci’s world premiere is scheduled for the new Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum in Los Angeles, Calif., followed by a theatrical release beginning November 24th.
The film is inspired by the shocking true story of the family empire behind the Italian fashion house of Gucci. Spanning three decades of love, betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately murder, we see what a name means, what it’s worth, and how far a family will go for control.
LOS ANGELES (November 25, 2019) – Saban Films announced today that they have acquired North American rights to Martin Owen’s (Killers Anonymous, L.A. Slasher) Twist. From a script penned by John Wrathall (Good, The Liability), the modern take on Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist stars Academy Award® Winner Michael Caine (The Quiet American, The Dark Knight series), Golden Globe® Award nominee Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones,” Fighting with My Family), Rita Ora (Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Fifty Shades of Grey franchise), Raff Law (Repo Men) and Sophie Simnett (“The Lodge,” “Daybreak”). Twist is produced by Noel Clarke and Jason Maza for Unstoppable along with Pure Grass Films’ Ben Grass and Knuckle Sandwich’s Matt Williams. The film is co-produced by Sky. Saban Films will release the film theatrically Q1 of 2021.
Set in contemporary London, Twistfollows a gifted graffiti artist who is lured into a street gang headed by a father figure, Fagin, who plans a series of audacious art thefts.
Arclight Films’ Chairman Gary Hamilton states, “Twist boasts a really fantastic cast that crosses all generations so we are thrilled for new audiences young and old to enjoy this wonderful interpretation on Oliver Twist’s classic story. We are overjoyed to be working with our friends at Saban again – they are the perfect partner to bring this film to US audiences.”
Saban Films’ Bill Bromiley commented, “Martin Owens seamlessly transports Charles Dickens’ timeless characters into the present with this ensemble cast, who injects a new energy into the classic tale.”
Bill Bromiley and Jonathan Saba negotiated the deal for Saban Films along with John Fremes from Arclight Films. Arclight Films is handling worldwide rights. Financiers include MEP Capital, Blue Rider, Arclight and Lipsync Productions.
This marks Saban Films’ fourth acquisition during the American Film Market with previous titles including Nicol Paone’s Friendsgiving with Malin Akerman, Kat Dennings, Chelsea Peretti, Jane Seymour, and Aisha Tyler; Jason Lei Howden’s Guns Akimbo starring Daniel Radcliffe; and John Suits’ Breach starring Bruce Willis.
Saban Films continues to grow its presence in the industry, remaining active in the acquisition, production and distribution space. The company’s successes have run the gamut from critically acclaimed theatrical films such as The Homesman starring Hilary Swank, to two of the biggest Fathom events with horror icon and heavy metal mastermind Rob Zombie’s 31 in 2016 and 3 From Hell earlier this month, as well as Kevin Smith’s highly successful Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, the sequel to the 2001 comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back which the company partnered on after coming on board at script stage. Its upcoming slate includes Steven C. Miller’s Line of Duty; Will Forbes’ John Henry starring Terry Crews and Ludacris and executive produced by Matthew Antoun; and Darren Lynn Bousman’s Death of Me starring Maggie Q and Luke Hemsworth.
About Saban Films
Saban Films, an affiliate of Saban Capital Group (“SCG”), is a film acquisition and distribution company that acquires high-quality, feature films to distribute in North America. Focusing on commercial, talent driven films, the company looks at projects in all stages of production for release across multiple platforms, including a day and date theatrical/VOD release strategy. Based in Los Angeles, Saban Films was established by Haim Saban, SCG Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer, and is led by Bill Bromiley who serves as President, Shanan Becker, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer and Ness Saban, Vice President of Business Development.
ABOUT ARCLIGHT FILMS
Arclight Films is one of the world’s leading international sales companies for theatrical, television and home entertainment. Arclight Films has sold over 300 motion pictures including the Best Picture Oscar® winner Crash, Golden Globe® Best Picture Nominee Bobby and Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto and Ethan Hawke and the recent Oscar® nominated feature First Reformed (for Best Original Screenplay).
Arclight Films’ slate includes the Australian the action thriller Long Gone Heroes starring Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, and Maggie Q, Twist currently in production and starring Michael Caine and Here are the Young Men starring Travis Fimmel, Dean Charles Chapman, Finn Cole and Anya Taylor-Joy, the true-life prison break story, Escape From Pretoria, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Daniel Webber, the sci-fi thriller Possessor starring Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh, directed by Brandon Cronenberg, the 2019 Berlin Film Festival official selection Öndög from Berlin Golden Bear winning director Wang Quan’an, and the big-budget Chinese co-production Killer 10 to be directed by Phillip Noyce.
The company’s recent films include the highly anticipated Hotel Mumbai starring Armie Hammer, Dev Patel, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher, and Jason Isaacs, directed by Anthony Maras released in the US by Bleecker Street on March 22nd, the powerhouse actioner Triple Threat starring Chinese stars Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais and Tiger Chen, and the Vietnamese action thriller Furie both films released by Well Go USA in March 2019, and the successful biopic Jungle starring Daniel Radcliffe released by eOne.
Arclight’s past films include 2016 Official Cannes Directors’ Fortnight selection Dog Eat Dog starring Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe, The Confirmation starring Clive Owen and Maria Bello, directed by Academy Award-winner Bob Nelson (Nebraska), 2016 Sundance Official Selection Frank & Lola starring Imogen Poots and Michael Shannon, Predestination starring Ethan Hawke released through Sony Pictures, Last Knights starring Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman, Paper Planes starring Sam Worthington, and Shangri-La Suite starring Emily Browning and Luke Grimes.
Arclight Films additionally encompasses subsidiary labels Darclight Films, the edgy genre-driven division of the company whose films include the worldwide horror hits Wolf Creek, Wolf Creek 2 and action thriller Bait 3D (the highest-grossing Australian film in the history of Chinese cinema), and Easternlight, a specialty arm showcasing Asian cinema with the largest film library of any non-Asian-based indie film label. Films sold under the Easternlight banner include the worldwide blockbuster Forbidden Kingdom starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li, 14 Blades starring Donnie Yen, and legendary auteur Chen Kaige’s Sacrifice.
The latest additions to Easternlight includes Guardians Of The Tomb starring Kellen Lutz and Bingbing Li, Snow Girl And The Dark Crystal starring Bingbing Li, Wolf Warrior starring Wu Jing (which opened #1 at the Chinese Box Office, earning more than $32.5M in one weekend) Outcast starring Nicolas Cage, Special Id Starring Donnie Yen, and Badges Of Fury.
Arclight Films maintains a presence at all major motion picture and television festivals and markets with offices in Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Toronto.
With 24 million customers across seven countries, Sky is Europe’s leading media and entertainment company and is proud to be part of the Comcast group. Our 31,000 employees help connect our customers with the very best of Sports, News, the arts and to our own local, original content. Following the success of Sky originals like Chernobyl, Patrick Melrose, Das Boot and Gomorrah we launched Sky Studios and now plan to more than double our investment in original drama and comedy over the next five years.
Our technology allows customers to watch what they want, when they want, how they want, and as we connect millions of families to the content they love, it is our responsibility to do it safely – that’s why we offer services like Sky Broadband Buddy and the Sky Kids app. And our online streaming service, NOW TV, brings viewers all the enjoyment of Sky with the flexibility of a contract-free service.
We also believe that a company of our scale has a responsibility that goes beyond our business, and into the community. Our Sky Ocean Rescue campaign has reached millions across Europe, we’re on track to be free of single-use plastic by 2020, we’re investing £25million over five years in ocean-saving tech and we’re a proud employer – recognized by The Times and Stonewall for our approach to inclusivity.
With no major breakthrough in the talks between Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors Association and the state government on Monday, theatres continued to remain closed throughout the state on Tuesday as well, affecting the Tamil film industry. The association had called for a strike after the state government announced the imposition of 30% local body tax in addition to the Goods and Services Tax…
GOVT, EXHIBITORS REFUSE TO BUDGE
Presently, there are two requests that are being made by the exhibitors. One is the removal of the announced local body tax, which added with the 28% GST, will increase the entertainment tax in Tamil Nadu to a staggering 58%. The other is a request to rationalise the ticket prices, which were fixed way back in 2007 to their present rates. In a GO issued in 2009, the Tamil Nadu government had capped ticket prices at `120 for multiplexes (defined as theatres with three or more screens). For single screen theatres, the rate of admission was capped at `50 (municipal corporation), `40 (municipalities), `25 (town panchayats) and `15 (village panchayats) for air-conditioned theatres. However, theatres, especially those in the suburbs and rural areas, have been flouting these restrictions and collecting a higher amount.
And exhibitors feel this was necessitated because there had been no hike in ticket prices for almost 10 years, despite inflation.
Rakesh Gowthaman of a theatre in the suburbs, says, “The strike cannot go on like this. An amicable solution should be formed at least by Thursday. Our two demands are — to remove the local body tax and allow permission to hike ticket rates. We aren’t asking for an unreasonable hike; the current ticket price across the state should be revised based on the area (panchayat, municipality, corporation) where the theatre falls and its facilities.”
The Karnataka government has capped ticket rates at multiplex at `200. In Hyderabad, it is `300, while in Kerala, the average ticket prices in multiplexes is `250. So, there has also been a request to allow multiplexes to charge `200. It will be a double whammy for the industry if the local taxes are imposed on top of the GST and ticket rates remaining the same as they were almost 10 years ago,” opines G Dhananjayan, producer and distributor, whose Ivan Thanthiran is among last Friday’s releases which have been severely affected by this strike.
However, the government, we are told, is not ready to forgo the local tax because it feels that this is a major source of revenue for the local bodies. But some in the industry also feel that this could also be because the government, by using tax exemption, wants to keep the industry under its control. “I am not sure when was the last time cinema theatres in TN were shut down, but I am pretty sure these are unprecedented situations currently prevailing. When other state governments across India have recognized the idea of GST and reformed their local taxation system, why has the TN government alone not taken any of these reform measures yet? This government simply wants to hold the industry and the producers at ransom, so they can extract their pound of flesh as bribes on the pretext of giving tax exemption, at the time of release. This systemic plunder has to stop,” hits out S Sashikanth, producer of Vikram Vedha, which has postponed its July 7 release because of the uncertainty prevailing in Kollywood.
STARS’ SALARIES COME UNDER THE SCANNER
The popular opinion among audiences, especially those on social media, seems to be that the industry is suffering on account of its own extravagances, from producers inflating the box-office figures to paying stars in crores. This is why lyricist Madhan Karky has come in for praise, after announcing that he will be taking a 15% cut in his remuneration. “I don’t have much knowledge about taxation or GST, but speaking to some producers, I realised that the local body tax is a big blow to them. Since higher salaries raise the cost of filmmaking, I’ve decided to take a cut in my payment. I do not know how much my gesture will help producers, but this is the only way I can offer them my support,” says Karky. He informs that he is planning to continue with his decision even after the stand-off between the exhibitors and the government has ended, “for a year or two until the industry is back on track.”
The Federal Government has released the sum of N420.2 million to the Nigeria film industry, Nollywood, to improve and support aspiring practitioners.
The Deputy Director of Information, Federal Ministry of Finance, Patricia Deworitshe, in a statement in Abuja said, the money which is the second tranche payment will benefit 105 film distributors.
The Buhari-led administration had earlier introduced the “Project Act Nollywood”, with three primary components designed to develop the movie making value chain.
The components comprise of the Film Production Fund (FPF), Capacity Building Fund (CBF) and Innovative Distribution Fund (IDF).
The FPF and CBF have been fully implemented, while the IDF is on-going.
The IDF covers online, National, Regional and community categories of Nollywood Film distribution and exhibition.
Its objectives are to improve the distribution network of Nigerian Audio-Visual contents, cut down on piracy, create jobs, and protect intellectual property rights within the Nigerian entertainment industry.
N1.8 billion was approved for disbursement to 106 beneficiaries in this component, and N1.335 billion was disbursed earlier in the year as the first tranche to 105 beneficiaries.
Deworitshe said : “Fifteen community cinemas and viewing centres have been established through the grant and this has improved the distribution network of movies in Nigeria.The programme has supported 18 firms in strengthening online distribution platforms, this has helped curb illegal downloads and piracy.
“Two hundred and fifty six permanent jobs and 544 temporary jobs have been created through the financial support provided to 105 beneficiaries by the programme,’’ she said.
She explained that the programme has allowed distributors to expand their capacity to lip-synching their content in French for onward distribution to the ECOWAS sub-region.
Distributor plots move into genre and family movies, beginning with Asghar Farhadi’s upcoming thriller.
Italian distribution company Lucky Red is planning to ramp up its production operation, with a focus on genre and family movies.
At an event held in Rome yesterday (June 26) to mark the company’s 30th anniversary, founder and CEO Andrea Occhipinti said: “Distribution will remain our core business, but we want to become one of the most important production companies in Italy.”
“Production may be a good way not to be too dependent on acquisitions, since it’s becoming harder to get the good movies. Instead a good Italian film can make a big difference at the box office”.
One of the most prestigious projects that Lucky Red is co-producing is Asghar Farhadi’s untitled Spanish-language thriller starring Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darin (pictured, top).
As Screen announced during Cannes, the $12-13m project is a French-Spanish-Italian co-production with Lucky Red, French producer Alexandre Mallet-Guy of Memento Films and Che producer Álvaro Longoria of Spanish stalwarts Morena Films.
It will also be made in co-production with France 3 Cinema and supported by Canal Plus and France Télévision.
Other projects already greenlit by Lucky Red include the untitled new feature from Gabriele Mainetti (They Call Him Jeeg Robot), which started shooting in January; the GoPro-shot sci-fi horror Ride, from Mine directors Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro, and Sotto La Mia Pelle (Under My Skin), a legal drama centred on a man who gets beaten by the police, with Jasmine Trinca (Fortunata).
The move into production will help Lucky Red expand beyond the arthouse audience, which is not as lucrative as it used to be, according to Occhipinti.
“Our audience is getting old,” he said. “Once also small arthouse movies were able to make a good result, now it’s impossible”.
As a result, Lucky Red is branching out into genre and family movies, popular comedies, and television: “We are working with Fox Italy on a series but still can’t tell if it will be an international or national project”, said Occhipinti.
Lucky Red previously moved into the exhibition sector after becoming the main shareholder in the 130-screen Circuito Cinema arthouse chain. They also co-founded world sales company True Colours together with Indigo, which scored a series of deals for its Cannes 2017 slate, including for Sergio Castellitto’s Un Certain Regard drama Fortunata and Simone Godano’s body-swapping comedy Wife & Husband.
At the press conference, Occhipinti also discussed why Lucky Red became the first company in the Italian cinema industry to commit to an ethical code of inclusion and tolerance towards gay employees.
“Being gay myself I’m very close to these problems,” says Occhipinti, “We decided to issue and promote this code publicly before the first law allowing gay unions was passed in Italy. We wanted to make a statement not only to guarantee maternity and paternity rights to our gay employees, but also to say that if our institutions are not moving and addressing the issue, we are doing it by ourselves”.
Account manager Chris Boyd will lead Organic’s northern business.
London-based film and TV publicity and marketing agency Organic has opened a new office in Manchester.
“Organic North”, based in the Havas Village on Princess Street, will work with the London office to service Organic’s existing clients to provide on-the-ground services in Manchester and the surrounding area.
The agency will also work with new clients based outside of London, covering UK and regional publicity campaigns, junkets, festivals, media management, unit publicity and social media management.
Account manager Chris Boyd will lead Organic’s northern business and travel between Manchester and London.
Organic North will sit alongside sister agency Target Live – a full service agency for the Arts and live events – which also opened an office in Manchester earlier this year.
Caragh Cook, managing director of Organic, said: “Having a home in Manchester means we can provide a communications hub for the North, situated in the heart of an exciting, progressive city – a growing media destination which is bursting with creativity and culture. In the last few weeks, the team has been busy working on several films at Sheffield Doc/Fest, kicking off an exciting new chapter for Organic.”
Organic is part of Havas Media Group in the UK, after the acquisition of its parent group Target MCG in October 2016. Target MCG incorporates Target Media, Target Live, Organic and Superhero.
Organic’s clients include: Netflix, Altitude Film Distribution; Curzon; Disney; Entertainment One; Embankment Films; Hanway; Icon Film Distribution; Lionsgate; Pathe; Sierra/Affinity; Twentieth Century Fox; Warner Bros.; Studiocanal and Universal Pictures.
Netflix, Amazon are major factors at movie festivals around the world
The big subscription VOD platforms, led by Netflix and Amazon, have slowly but surely been making major moves into original film productions. While the effort has hardly elevated either player to the ranks of elite film producers, the performance by Amazon’s Manchester by the Sea during awards season — it was a Best Picture nominee at the Academy Awards, a first for a film backed by a streaming service — showed that the streaming platforms have more than just crafting binge-worthy original TV series on their minds.
“Manchester by the Sea cemented the fact that the SVOD platforms can make movies of that caliber,” Tony Gunnarsson, principal analyst at Ovum, a research firm for the digital industry, said. “They don’t have to come from Hollywood studios.”
Amazon bought distribution rights to Manchester for $10 million. While the film did not get Best Picture, it did take home the Oscars for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay.
Netflix’s Bigger Bet
Despite Amazon’s awards success, Netflix has been the most active of the SVOD platforms in terms of producing original films. Speaking at the Producers Guild of America’s Produced By Conference in Los Angeles earlier this month, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos drew a reaction from the crowd when he revealed that the service currently has 40 original movies in the works. Some of Netflix’s higher-profile original films include the prison documentary 13th; Brad Pitt’s War Machine, which Netflix paid $60 million for, according to published reports; war drama Beasts of No Nation; Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which starts shooting this summer; and an eight-movie deal with Adam Sandler.
Okja, which made a stir last month at the Cannes Film Festival, starts streaming on Netflix June 28.
Amazon’s original film ambitions have been more modest. In July 2015, it acquired Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, which debuted in February 2016 as the streaming platform’s first original movie. Early last year, Amazon acquired six films at the Sundance Film Festival. At this year’s Sundance, it shelled out $12 million for distribution rights to rom com The Big Sick.
Hulu, meanwhile, has been producing documentaries for its original films. Those include Becoming Bond, about Australian actor George Lazenby’s unlikely rise to playing James Bond in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
None of those three SVOD players would speak for this story.
Amazon and Netflix have emerged as forces at the various film festivals around the world. “Netflix and Amazon are in the movie business,” Assembly Entertainment CEO Christina Wayne said at the recent B&C and Multichannel News Next TV Summit. “They are at the festivals, out-buying everybody.”
Industry insiders mostly see it as a smart strategy. Original productions better define a programmer than acquired ones, they said, and they’re typically cheaper, too. “You make more money when you make your own movie than when you get the rights to a third-party Hollywood movie,” Gunnarsson said. “Those are quite expensive.”
Netflix’s production costs in 2017 are around $6 billion, and Amazon’s $4.5 billion.
Television has started to rival film in terms of prestige in recent years, evident in the many film luminaries working in TV, such as Anthony Hopkins starring in HBO’s West-world and Woody Allen making Crisis in Six Scenes for Amazon. Yet film still offers a certain degree of glamour.
“I think it makes absolute sense,” said Dave Smith, CEO of media consultancy SmithGeiger, of the streamers’ moves into film production. “It’s a brand extension into original programming, and it gets you into film, which is seen as the highest level in the entertainment paradigm.”
It also might mean prestigious film awards, which are good for the brand, Smith added.
Bigger Content, Smaller Screens
SVOD services’ moves into original films come as viewers get more used to consuming longer-form content on smaller screens. Long-form content — which software company Ooyala defines as more than 20 minutes in length — represents 65% of viewing on computers, up from 35% a year before, and 55% of viewing on smartphones, up from 29% a year before.
The SVOD players have very different approaches to making their film offerings stand out. Amazon appears more willing to have its films offered for traditional theatrical release before they turn up on SVOD, which can mean a mighty marketing push for a film before it ends up on Amazon.
Bob Berney, head of marketing and distribution at Amazon Studios, addressed theater owners at CinemaCon last year, reassuring them the six films it acquired at Sundance would get theatrical releases — and aggressive marketing strategies.
Netflix movies don’t spend as much time on the big screen. War Machine, for one, had a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles. Netflix took some heat at the Cannes Film Festival last month related to theatrical releases. Pedro Almodóvar, head of the festival jury, said Netflix movies that won’t be in theaters should not be eligible to win the Palme d’Or prize. When the Netflix film Okja premiered at Cannes, the Netflix logo on screen at the start of the film got a lusty boo out of the crowd.
But it appears both SVOD players are in the film business for the long term. As Christina Wayne sees it, such platforms are expanding to reflect the public’s love for TV series, talk shows, children’s programming, movies and whatever else they wish to watch. “It’s going to be Netflix and Amazon,” she said, “where we watch every single bit of content.”
The story behind the studio that produced “Moonlight” and “It Comes At Night”, as told by Barry Jenkins, Sofia Coppola, James Franco, Robert Pattinson, and the founders of A24 themselves.
There are more glamorous things to be, in Hollywood, than an independent distribution company. For instance, an actress. Or a director. Or a screenwriter. Key grip. Maybe even that guy with a two-way radio who keeps you from walking through a movie set. Film-distribution companies tend to be important but invisible: They buy finished films, cut trailers, make posters, and put movies into movie theaters—or, more often these days, dump them onto VOD, never to be heard from again. There are exceptions to this rule, such as Miramax, the company that upended indie cinema in the ’90s, backing then unknown filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino. And there are studio subdivisions, like Fox Searchlight, that have consistently guided films like 12 Years a Slave and Birdman to Academy Awards and box office success over the past twenty years. But in general distribution is like plumbing: unseen, unnoticed, and notable only when it malfunctions.
So it was strange, if you were a moviegoer in 2013, to see the A24 logo pop up again and again before movies as varied and weird as Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now and Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. It wasn’t just that, for a new distribution company, it seemed to have a level of taste and an instinct for cool that is atypical in Hollywood. It was also that A24 was releasing these films not with a sigh and a shrug, but with panache, style, and humor: bright neon colors, guerrilla marketing tactics, and in the case of James Franco’s Britney Spears-loving gangster character from Spring Breakers, an actual Oscar campaign. The company, improbably, was based in New York, not Los Angeles. Its trio of founders—Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges, who’d known each other through years of work in New York’s indie movie circuit—rarely granted interviews. If you were paying attention, you had to wonder: Who were these strange upstart New Yorkers who were making Hollywood a little bit great again?
That was 2013. Four short years later, the company’s first original production, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In between, A24 went from being a tiny, disorganized room of eight or so people to being the place where big stars like Robert Pattinson and Scarlett Johansson go to make small, strange movies, and auteurs like Jonathan Glazer and Denis Villeneuve go to make deeply personal films unmolested by studio notes or clueless executives. We spoke with the company’s friends, collaborators, and employees to make sense of how A24 became the most interesting, creative, and reliable film company of the 21st century.
Robert Pattinson(actor, ‘The Rover,’ ‘Good Time’): It’s crazy that there is an article about a distribution company. That’s completely nuts.
Harmony Korine(director, ‘Spring Breakers’): They have balls.
Barry Jenkins(director, ‘Moonlight’): A24’s the kind of company where they say, “Yeah, they don’t need to know what it’s about. They just need to know how it feels.”
James Franco(actor, ‘Spring Breakers,’ ‘The Adderall Diaries’): This is one of the things they’re great at: taking something small and delicate and giving it the kind of support that other people can’t.
Sofia Coppola(director, ‘The Bling Ring’): I really like those guys. They don’t have the personality of movie executives.
Asif Kapadia(director, ‘Amy’): I suppose most filmmakers have had bad experiences in the past where you do all the hard work, and then these guys in slick suits come along and they’re like, “We know what we’re doing now! We’ll handle it!” And if it works, it’s them; if it doesn’t work, it’s all your fault anyway. And I felt with these guys it was a dialogue. I felt like we were all on the same team.
James Ponsoldt(director, ‘The Spectacular Now,’ ‘The End of the Tour’): I’ve heard people refer to Miramax. There’s music labels I can think of as well. Where it’s like: I’m in. I just trust, you know, Drag City or Merge or SST or Dischord. There’s aesthetic and political values to the people behind the company. It’s super inspiring.
Denis Villeneuve(director, ‘Enemy’): I never saw them as businessmen.
Colin Farrell(actor, ‘The Lobster,’ ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’): They have such a great eye for these small little films and rich and unique stories that may have not found it to the big screen if it wasn’t for them.
Sasha Lane(actress, ‘American Honey’): They were like, “You guys are who you are and we’re not going to change that.” No one had to be perfected for anything. No one cared about our language or our clothes.
Daniel Radcliffe(actor, ‘Swiss Army Man’): I’ve had experiences on films in the past where they get bought by somebody who sees something in it that they like, which is nice, but it also happens to be not—and is sometimes antithetical to—what the people who made the film wanted it to be. When you can get a distribution company that likes the film for the same reasons that people that made it like the film—I’ve found that rare. They’re one of the few companies that have shown that indie films can still be viable.
Alex Garland(director, ‘Ex Machina’): They make things work that according to standard procedures really shouldn’t work. And I’m not saying they’re magicians. I think what they’ve understood is there’s a sufficient number of people out there who want more challenging or different material. And they’re aiming at them.
Brie Larson(actress, ‘Room,’ ‘The Spectacular Now’): A24 has the unique ability to find and champion authentic narratives that cut to the core in a raw and honest way.
Patrick Stewart(actor, ‘Green Room’): [The premiere of ‘Green Room’] was at the Toronto Film Festival’s Midnight Madness. And although it describes itself as Midnight Madness, the film didn’t start until close to one o’clock in the morning. And, I mean, there was one moment in the movie when my character was booed and hissed so vociferously, I felt as though I was in a Roman arena and my life was at stake. And I was ready to say: “It was me! It was me! And I was just acting! That was just acting!” It was not like being in a cinema. It was like being in some kind of arena. So, um, well done, A24!
Noah Sacco(head of acquisitions and production, A24): I think some of our biggest movies had no stars in them at the time of release—Ex Machina, Moonlight, The Witch, Room, The Spectacular Now.
David Fenkel(co-founder, A24): We find movies [for which] our perspective, our system, our people, can act to make it something special. If it’s gonna be released the same way by another company, we usually don’t go after it.
Daniel Katz(co-founder, A24): We used to always talk about “Oh, there’s gotta be a better way.”
John Hodges(co-founder and co-head of TV, A24): It was one of those conversations where it was always like, “How would we do it differently?” And it was usually fueled by beer and things scribbled down on napkins and a lot of bravado.
Katz: Some of it was probably misplaced, don’t you agree?