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Distributor report cards: Mini-majors, specialty divisions and indies

Sept 1, 2009

-By THR Staff


filmjournal/photos/stylus/67828-Coraline_Md.jpg

'Coraline' was a breakout hit for Focus

Mini-majors

Lionsgate

Year so far: During its first full year under motion picture group president Joe Drake, Lionsgate branched out on the development side, signing on for A-list projects like the Paul Haggis-Russell Crowe dramatic thriller "The Next Three Days" and snapping up the hot Matthew Vaughn action-comedy "Kick-Ass" out of Comic-Con. But some of its biggest earners have come in its traditional genre categories -- January's "My Bloody Valentine 3D" ($52 million domestic) and the surprise winter hit "The Haunting in Connecticut" ($55 million). "People thought when I got here that we're getting out of the horror business, and it's not true at all," Drake says. Tyler Perry also continues to perform -- his "Madea Goes to Jail" grossed $90 million in the winter -- but hoped-for big returns from the Jason Statham action sequel "Crank: High Voltage" didn't materialize in the spring (earning just $14 million domestic).

In the pipeline: After what Drake calls an "intentionally quiet" summer, he is busy prepping for six new releases through December, including a potential awards run for the Sundance pickup "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire." Drake came in with a mandate to broaden the company's reach and range, and it's looking more like a diversified studio than ever. Fantasy tales ("Season of the Witch"), action films (Lakeshore's Gerard Butler vehicle "Gamer"), action comedies (Jackie Chan-toplined "The Spy Next Door," Robert Luketic's "Killers") critically acclaimed documentaries (dolphin-poacher tale "The Cove") prestige films (the Jim Sheridan war drama "Brothers") and of course more "Saw" and Perry are all on the docket. What else? "We want to also compete aggressively in the comedy space -- high-concept movies that speak to a young, edgy audience and come from proven creators who want to be in a slightly different financial model," Drake says. Lionsgate hopes to have more consistent earners than a specialty division but spend less money than a studio.

Executive status:
Longtime theatrical president Tom Ortenberg decamped for the Weinstein Co. this year. And the company also suffered a tragedy when distribution president Steven Rothenberg passed away during the summer. But the mini-major boasts a backbone of such young executives as acquisitions topper Jason Constantine and Paramount veteran Alli Shearmur, as well as an established group of senior management like CEO Jon Feltheimer and vice chairman Michael Burns.

Overture Films

Year so far: The domestic distributor launched in 2006 by Liberty Media (to integrate with Starz Media and Anchor Bay) has slowed a bit after last year's packed release schedule. "At one point in 2008 we had 'Righteous Kill' and Don Cheadle's 'Traitor' on more than 5,000 screens in the marketplace at the same time," notes COO Danny Rosett. It has released just two films this year: March's well-received "Sunshine Cleaning" grossed a surprising $12 million but this month's docu-dramedy "Paper Heart" hasn't resonated (grossing just $576,000 at press time). Still, last year's $10 million grosser "The Visitor" has performed well on DVD after scoring an Oscar nomination for star Richard Jenkins, and the December release "Last Chance Harvey" won Golden Globe nominations for stars Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson and grossed nearly $15 million.

In the pipeline: A very active fall is planned, including a Sept. 18 wide release for "Pandorum," a Dennis Quaid terror thriller from the producers of "Resident Evil." The Venice and Toronto film festivals are getting Michael Moore's new documentary "Capitalism: A Love Story" (co-financed with Paramount) in advance of its Oct. 2 release on 1,400 screens. Another wide bow is planned Oct. 16 for the Film Department thriller "Law Abiding Citizen," starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, with Overture financing the release. Then in November George Clooney stars in "The Men Who Stare at Goats," based on a true story about secret military project. Early 2010 releases include the horror thriller "The Crazies," possibly followed by Philip Seymour Hoffman directing Amy Ryan in the romantic comedy "Jack Goes Boating."

Executive status: No major changes. Overture is run by co-founders CEO Chris McGurk and Rosett. Peter Adee heads theatrical distribution and marketing. Adam Keen oversees worldwide publicity. Rob Springer is senior vp sales.

Summit Entertainment


Year so far: The phenomenal success of November's "Twilight" ($380 million worldwide) proved the 2-year-old mini-major could compete with the big boys -- with a total staff smaller than some studio marketing departments. "We're out there fighting every day to make our dollars go as far as they can go," says co-chair and CEO Rob Friedman. Now he's trying to keep that momentum going. March's Nicolas Cage thriller "Knowing" grossed $79.9 million domestically, a hit more in line with Summit's hopes for non-"Twilight" films. February's sci-fi thriller "Push" pulled in a domestic gross of $31.8 million), but May's arty "The Brothers Bloom" ($3.5 million), May's urban comedy "Next Day Air" ($10 million) and this month's "Bandslam" ($2.9 million) were underperformers. Summit does have one of the only art-house successes of the summer in "The Hurt Locker," a Toronto pickup that has passed $11 million domestically. An awards campaign is planned.

In the pipeline: "Twilight," "Twilight," "Twilight"! Three sequels are being fast-tracked, with "New Moon" coming in November and "Eclipse" on June 30. Beyond vampires vs. werewolves, the plan is to distribute 12 movies annually, most in wide release, including "Sorority Row" in September, "Astro Boy" in October, "Furry Vengeance" in April and "Letters to Juliet" in May. "Push," licensed to Syfy, now being developed as company's first TV series, and an output deal was struck with Showtime this year.

Executive status: Co-chair and CEO Rob Friedman and co-chair and president Patrick Wachsberger preside over about 155 employees. Their team includes COO Bob Hayward, international head David Garrett, production and acquisitions head Erik Feig and since September 2008, Nancy Kirkpatrick as head of marketing and PR. Richard Fay heads theatrical distribution, Steve Nickerson home video and Alex Fragen domestic TV distribution.

The Weinstein Co.


Year so far: Rumors of trouble at the Weinstein Co. weren't helped by a New York Times profile this month in which Harvey Weinstein joked to the journalist that if the current slate doesn't work, "I'll be driving you, or making cheap hamburgers, or selling trailers, or refrigerators, or something." But even though this year's releases have landed with a thud (February's "Crossing Over" managed just $2.4 million worldwide with Harrison Ford starring and February's "Fanboys" failed to gross $700,000 domestically despite a genre hook), the Weinstein Co. took December's "The Reader" to more than $107 million worldwide and an Oscar for Kate Winslet. Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" got the company back on track with a $37.6 million opening Aug. 21.

In the pipeline: Bob Weinstein oversees the Dimension release of "Halloween 2," now in theaters, and "Piranha 3D" early next year. October will bring the quirky romance "Youth In Revolt," starring Michael Cera. With "Basterds," Harvey hopes for two more Oscar contenders with the Thanksgiving release of Rob Marshall's musical "Nine," starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard, and the apocalyptic thriller "The Road," with Charlize Theron and Viggo Mortensen. Budgets vary, but "Our core spot where we like to be is $25 million-$50 million (budget) range," says international distribution head David Glasser. "That's a great area for our pictures."

Executive status: The company has seen tons of turnover lately. Founders and co-chairman Bob and Harvey Weinstein brought in Glasser last fall, and Tom Ortenberg in January to head theatrical films. Andrew Kramer now heads business affairs, Lee Solomon is COO, David Spiegelman oversees domestic TV; and Liz Biber is executive vp publicity. Barry Gordon handles home entertainment and Laurent Ouaknine is senior vp distribution.


1 | 2 | 3


Distributor report cards: Mini-majors, specialty divisions and indies

Sept 1, 2009

-By THR Staff


filmjournal/photos/stylus/67828-Coraline_Md.jpg

Mini-majors

Lionsgate

Year so far: During its first full year under motion picture group president Joe Drake, Lionsgate branched out on the development side, signing on for A-list projects like the Paul Haggis-Russell Crowe dramatic thriller "The Next Three Days" and snapping up the hot Matthew Vaughn action-comedy "Kick-Ass" out of Comic-Con. But some of its biggest earners have come in its traditional genre categories -- January's "My Bloody Valentine 3D" ($52 million domestic) and the surprise winter hit "The Haunting in Connecticut" ($55 million). "People thought when I got here that we're getting out of the horror business, and it's not true at all," Drake says. Tyler Perry also continues to perform -- his "Madea Goes to Jail" grossed $90 million in the winter -- but hoped-for big returns from the Jason Statham action sequel "Crank: High Voltage" didn't materialize in the spring (earning just $14 million domestic).

In the pipeline: After what Drake calls an "intentionally quiet" summer, he is busy prepping for six new releases through December, including a potential awards run for the Sundance pickup "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire." Drake came in with a mandate to broaden the company's reach and range, and it's looking more like a diversified studio than ever. Fantasy tales ("Season of the Witch"), action films (Lakeshore's Gerard Butler vehicle "Gamer"), action comedies (Jackie Chan-toplined "The Spy Next Door," Robert Luketic's "Killers") critically acclaimed documentaries (dolphin-poacher tale "The Cove") prestige films (the Jim Sheridan war drama "Brothers") and of course more "Saw" and Perry are all on the docket. What else? "We want to also compete aggressively in the comedy space -- high-concept movies that speak to a young, edgy audience and come from proven creators who want to be in a slightly different financial model," Drake says. Lionsgate hopes to have more consistent earners than a specialty division but spend less money than a studio.

Executive status:
Longtime theatrical president Tom Ortenberg decamped for the Weinstein Co. this year. And the company also suffered a tragedy when distribution president Steven Rothenberg passed away during the summer. But the mini-major boasts a backbone of such young executives as acquisitions topper Jason Constantine and Paramount veteran Alli Shearmur, as well as an established group of senior management like CEO Jon Feltheimer and vice chairman Michael Burns.

Overture Films

Year so far: The domestic distributor launched in 2006 by Liberty Media (to integrate with Starz Media and Anchor Bay) has slowed a bit after last year's packed release schedule. "At one point in 2008 we had 'Righteous Kill' and Don Cheadle's 'Traitor' on more than 5,000 screens in the marketplace at the same time," notes COO Danny Rosett. It has released just two films this year: March's well-received "Sunshine Cleaning" grossed a surprising $12 million but this month's docu-dramedy "Paper Heart" hasn't resonated (grossing just $576,000 at press time). Still, last year's $10 million grosser "The Visitor" has performed well on DVD after scoring an Oscar nomination for star Richard Jenkins, and the December release "Last Chance Harvey" won Golden Globe nominations for stars Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson and grossed nearly $15 million.

In the pipeline: A very active fall is planned, including a Sept. 18 wide release for "Pandorum," a Dennis Quaid terror thriller from the producers of "Resident Evil." The Venice and Toronto film festivals are getting Michael Moore's new documentary "Capitalism: A Love Story" (co-financed with Paramount) in advance of its Oct. 2 release on 1,400 screens. Another wide bow is planned Oct. 16 for the Film Department thriller "Law Abiding Citizen," starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, with Overture financing the release. Then in November George Clooney stars in "The Men Who Stare at Goats," based on a true story about secret military project. Early 2010 releases include the horror thriller "The Crazies," possibly followed by Philip Seymour Hoffman directing Amy Ryan in the romantic comedy "Jack Goes Boating."

Executive status: No major changes. Overture is run by co-founders CEO Chris McGurk and Rosett. Peter Adee heads theatrical distribution and marketing. Adam Keen oversees worldwide publicity. Rob Springer is senior vp sales.

Summit Entertainment


Year so far: The phenomenal success of November's "Twilight" ($380 million worldwide) proved the 2-year-old mini-major could compete with the big boys -- with a total staff smaller than some studio marketing departments. "We're out there fighting every day to make our dollars go as far as they can go," says co-chair and CEO Rob Friedman. Now he's trying to keep that momentum going. March's Nicolas Cage thriller "Knowing" grossed $79.9 million domestically, a hit more in line with Summit's hopes for non-"Twilight" films. February's sci-fi thriller "Push" pulled in a domestic gross of $31.8 million), but May's arty "The Brothers Bloom" ($3.5 million), May's urban comedy "Next Day Air" ($10 million) and this month's "Bandslam" ($2.9 million) were underperformers. Summit does have one of the only art-house successes of the summer in "The Hurt Locker," a Toronto pickup that has passed $11 million domestically. An awards campaign is planned.

In the pipeline: "Twilight," "Twilight," "Twilight"! Three sequels are being fast-tracked, with "New Moon" coming in November and "Eclipse" on June 30. Beyond vampires vs. werewolves, the plan is to distribute 12 movies annually, most in wide release, including "Sorority Row" in September, "Astro Boy" in October, "Furry Vengeance" in April and "Letters to Juliet" in May. "Push," licensed to Syfy, now being developed as company's first TV series, and an output deal was struck with Showtime this year.

Executive status: Co-chair and CEO Rob Friedman and co-chair and president Patrick Wachsberger preside over about 155 employees. Their team includes COO Bob Hayward, international head David Garrett, production and acquisitions head Erik Feig and since September 2008, Nancy Kirkpatrick as head of marketing and PR. Richard Fay heads theatrical distribution, Steve Nickerson home video and Alex Fragen domestic TV distribution.

The Weinstein Co.


Year so far: Rumors of trouble at the Weinstein Co. weren't helped by a New York Times profile this month in which Harvey Weinstein joked to the journalist that if the current slate doesn't work, "I'll be driving you, or making cheap hamburgers, or selling trailers, or refrigerators, or something." But even though this year's releases have landed with a thud (February's "Crossing Over" managed just $2.4 million worldwide with Harrison Ford starring and February's "Fanboys" failed to gross $700,000 domestically despite a genre hook), the Weinstein Co. took December's "The Reader" to more than $107 million worldwide and an Oscar for Kate Winslet. Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" got the company back on track with a $37.6 million opening Aug. 21.

In the pipeline: Bob Weinstein oversees the Dimension release of "Halloween 2," now in theaters, and "Piranha 3D" early next year. October will bring the quirky romance "Youth In Revolt," starring Michael Cera. With "Basterds," Harvey hopes for two more Oscar contenders with the Thanksgiving release of Rob Marshall's musical "Nine," starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard, and the apocalyptic thriller "The Road," with Charlize Theron and Viggo Mortensen. Budgets vary, but "Our core spot where we like to be is $25 million-$50 million (budget) range," says international distribution head David Glasser. "That's a great area for our pictures."

Executive status: The company has seen tons of turnover lately. Founders and co-chairman Bob and Harvey Weinstein brought in Glasser last fall, and Tom Ortenberg in January to head theatrical films. Andrew Kramer now heads business affairs, Lee Solomon is COO, David Spiegelman oversees domestic TV; and Liz Biber is executive vp publicity. Barry Gordon handles home entertainment and Laurent Ouaknine is senior vp distribution.




Specialty divisions

Focus Features

Year so far: February saw one of the biggest breakouts in Focus' recent history, the animated "Coraline" ($75 million domestic), which proved that it's possible for a specialty division to make waves in what's typically the studio realm of animation while still maintaining its core adult audience. "We're managing somehow to continue to keep the company of truly great filmmakers, while paying our rent and sending some nice checks back to the mother ship at the end of the year," topper James Schamus says. After a well-regarded March debut for its immigrant drama "Sin Nombre," Sam Mendes' relationship dramedy "Away We Go" was a decent, if modest, June performer ($10 million domestic). But "The Limits of Control," Jim Jarmusch's first film in four years, earned less than $500,000 and Chan wook-Park's religiously themed vampire film "Thirst" grossed a fraction of that. Schamus hopes for better returns from Ang Lee's nostalgic "Taking Woodstock," which opened this weekend. Winter also saw the merger of parent Universal's international production arm and Focus' global sales arm to form Focus Features International, which the company hopes will bring a global production element to the already strong international sales wing.

In the pipeline: After recent Oscar runs with such films as "Milk" and "Atonement," Focus returns to the race this year with "A Serious Man," the Coen brothers' midwestern coming-of-age story that may or may not be partly based on their own childhoods. "I really have to hand it to them, after the success of the last few films, they are taking their work to a whole new level of existential humor and smarts," Schamus says. Fall also brings Richard Curtis' 1960s comedy "Pirate Radio," about an illegal radio station in the North Sea, and a return to animation with the dystopian "9" from Shane Acker, which bows Sept. 9. Meanwhile, the company is ramping up such projects as Kevin Macdonald's Roman-era actioner "The Eagle of the Ninth," the Scott Rudin-produced and Noah Baumbach-directed drama "Greenberg" with Ben Stiller, the next Ryan Fleck-Anna Boden collaboration "It's Kind of a Funny Story," and the George Clooney-toplined thriller "A Very Private Gentleman," directed by Anton Corbijn ("Control").

Executive status: Unlike at Universal, things seem relatively stable at Focus. Schamus is CEO, while president Andrew Karpen along with production chief John Lyons and international sales president Alison Thompson continue to oversee their respective divisions.

Fox Searchlight

Year so far: To say it has been a busy year for Searchlight is to say Jamal Malik might have had an interesting childhood. The division took "Slumdog Millionaire" from a potential straight-to-DVD release to an awards season sweep and $141 million in domestic boxoffice. At the same time, "The Wrestler," a $4 million Toronto pickup, pinned down $26 million and Oscar noms for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. This year, the winter hip-hop biopic "Notorious" earned a respectable $37 million, but the Nia Vardalos romantic comedy "My Life in Ruins" underperformed in June with $9 million. Things heated up with the weather, as Marc Webb's quirky breakup dramedy "(500) Days of Summer" has grossed $20 million and counting domestically (though Sundance pickup "Adam" hasn't fared as well).

In the pipeline: Searchlight has at least one awards play with Mira Nair's Amelia Earhart biopic "Amelia," starring Hilary Swank. October brings the Drew Barrymore-helmed roller-derby comedy "Whip It" and "Gentlemen Broncos," a new comedy from Jared and Jerusha Hess. And of course there's always a possibility of lightning striking -- neither "Slumdog" nor "Wrestler" were Searchlight movies this time last year. Not that executives are banking on it. "It's important to recognize that 'Slumdog' is an anomaly," marketing honcho Nancy Utley says. "If we look for it every year, we're going to be disappointed." Spring and summer 2010 will bring the usual mix of carefully curated specialty movies with mainstream appeal, including recent pickup "Crazy Heart," in which Jeff Bridges stars as a has-been country singer; the dramatic thriller "Never Let Me Go," and the latest from indie comedy mavens the Duplass brothers.

Executive status: Now that leader Peter Rice has become the entertainment chairman of Fox broadcasting, Utley and distribution head Stephen Gilula have been upped to take his place. But that hasn't changed the decisionmaking at the company. "We functioned as a single management committee," Gilula says. "With Peter gone, there's obviously a big void. We miss his voice and his expertise. But it feels very much the same." Division chiefs Claudia Lewis (production) and Tony Safford (acquisitions) are Searchlight veterans, and this year Stephanie Allen and Michelle Hooper (marketing) and Sheila DeLoach (distribution) were promoted to exec vps.

Miramax

Year so far: Coming off a respectable performance ($33 million domestic) of its big fall movie "Doubt," Miramax dipped a toe in somewhat chilly commercial waters with Greg Mottola's coming-of-age dramedy "Adventureland" ($16 million domestic). Then the company's more traditional prestige release of Stephen Frears' 1920s Paris romance "Cheri" underperformed, drawing $3 million in domestic boxoffice at a difficult time for costume dramas. Topper Daniel Battsek sounds a mix of realism and optimism when asked about 2009 both at the awards podium and the boxoffice. "When you achieve the success we have, it's obviously not always possible to reach the same heights," he says, referring to such 2007 breakouts as "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men." "But looking back, I was generally satisfied, with just a few disappointments."

In the pipeline: The presence of Mike Judge comedy "Extract" and the Katie Holmes fantasy thriller "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" on upcoming slates -- along with buzz in development circles that Miramax might increasingly position itself as another Fox Searchlight -- has some wondering if the 4-year-old company will depart from its prestige roots. "Some of our movies represent a broader more comedic slant," Battsek admits. "But it's still rooted in a Miramax brand in terms of the filmmakers who are involved and in providing quality entertainment." Plus, dramas like Scott Hicks' "The Boys Are Back" ensure there's still plenty of prestige juice. As they have with other specialty divisions, observers have also asked questions about Miramax's future -- questions which Battsek both acknowledges and downplays. "Rumors abound, and have since the day I arrived," he says. "They've always been responded to by (Disney topper) Dick Cook. He's the person I look to for that support, and he's given that support."

Executive status: A few staffers have left Battsek this past year, including development exec Lauren Levy (to Adam Shankman's Offspring Entertainment) and field-publicity guru Nicolette Aizenberg (to 42 West). But production topper Keri Putnam and business affairs chief Michael Luisi remain.

Sony Pictures Classics


Year so far: "The goal of any Sony Pictures Classics release is to make the film a part of the culture," says co-topper Tom Bernard. "Once we've accomplished that, the movie is something that keeps giving for years to come." That strategy led to another solidly profitable year for the Sony specialty division. Averaging close to 20 releases annually, the slate was led this past year by Jonathan Demme's indie "Rachel Getting Married," which grossed almost $13 million domestically in the fall, and the June release of Woody Allen's "Whatever Works," which has grossed more than $5 million. December's Israeli anti-war movie "Waltz With Bashir" grossed $2.3 million was Oscar nominated. And while Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" underperformed with $3 million), the usual slew of foreign-language films (including the Kristin Scott Thomas-starrer "I've Loved You So Long," $3.2 million) were joined by the Sam Rockwell drama "Moon" ($4.5 million), the "Tyson" documentary ($887,000); and the period comedy "Easy Virtue" ($2 million). August rock doc "It Might Get Loud" is still platforming.

In the pipeline: The first of two Coco Chanel movies, "Coco Before Chanel" opens Sept. 25 (with "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" next year); also in September is "The Damned United," British political drama with Michael Sheen; in October the Sundance pickup "An Education," which is already generating awards buzz for star Carey Mulligan; Pedro Almadovar's "Broken Embraces" in November; Cannes Palm D'or winner "The White Ribbon" in December, and Cannes runner up, "A Prophet." "The next year is looking very good for us," says co-topper Michael Barker.

Executive status: After 18 years atop SPC, Barker and Bernard renewed their contracts in May for another four years. With a staff of only 15 people, the New York-based outfit can scale up for big pictures.




Indies

Freestyle Releasing

Year so far: Rent-a-distributor Freestyle has had success offering wide and limited theatrical releases on a "service deal" basis, charging a base fee (typically above $1 million) plus percentage of boxoffice gross. "We've seen so many come and go but we're still here because we don't take the financial risk," co-president Susan Jackson says. The company does booking, servicing and collections but farms out marketing to specialists and rounded up investors to put up P&A on some of the 20 pictures it released in the past year. After scoring a few hits last year like "Bottle Shock" ($4 million domestic) and "The Haunting of Molly Hartley" ($13.6 million), this month's "The Collector," a horror pic inherited from the Weinstein Co., opened on more than 1,200 screens and has grossed more than $7 million. Period comedy "My One and Only," starring Chris Noth and Kevin Bacon, is currently platforming.

In the pipeline: A wide release planned for September's "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell," a broad comedy in the vein of "The Hangover"; and in October Freestyle will platform "Motherhood," with Uma Thurman and Anthony Edwards, in five markets.

Executive status: The private company started in 2004 now has 14 employees, co-owned and run by distribution veterans Jackson and Mark Borde, who also own international sales company Turtles Crossing. Mike Simon is vp and general service manager, Courtney Pearson directs exhibitor relations.

IFC Films

Year so far: IFC ended 2008 on a buying spree with pics like "Che," and in 2009 the Rainbow Media division picked up right where it left off. After snapping up the campy Nazi zombie film "Dead Snow" and the buzz-laden political satire "In the Loop" out of Sundance, the company went shopping in Cannes, acquiring movies like Ken Loach's divorced-dad dramedy "Looking for Eric," Lars von Trier's controversial genre title "Antichrist" and the Romanian omnibus pic "Tales From the Golden Age." "Snow" didn't generate much boxoffice, but "Loop" has grossed $1 million in a very limited release, and it's likely to be a strong DVD and on-demand play, as will the Robert Pattinson drama "How to Be," which the company also picked up in the spring hoping to capitalize on "Twilight" madness. IFC relies strictly on acquisitions, which helps explain its active festival streak in this buyer's market. The company stays away from pricey gambles in favor of a cost-conscious model that emphasizes prestige pics. "The specialty model was broken three years ago and everybody got taken along for the ride," IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring says. "Studio economics were being applied to smaller specialized indie movies, and those were two forces that never met."

In the pipeline: Loach's pic could play to a soccer audience (it stars British soccer star Eric Cantona in a whimsical role), while a recent addition to the slate, Andrea Arnold's well-received Cannes coming-of-age drama "Fish Tank," could stir up some business. "Antichrist" will stir up plenty of headlines -- but whether that translates into boxoffice is anyone's guess. The film unit, which is a sister company to a host of cable networks and the Cablevision cable operator, also is looking to take advantage of the television platform and on-demand generally -- a platform it will need as the theatrical market for specialized and foreign fare remains small. "If we can break even on a movie from releasing it theatrically," Sehring says, "everything else is upside."

Executive status: Sehring has remained in his position even as rival specialty execs have come and gone. Acquisitions chief Arianna Bocco, publicity and marketing vets Ryan Werner and Courtney Ott are also strong presences.

Magnolia Pictures


Year so far: Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner have taken some heat for their strategy of pushing out two to four releases a month. But the past 12 months have been "the best time in the company's eight-year history," says topper Eamonn Bowles. It picked up an Oscar and nearly $3 million in domestic gross for the documentary "Man on Wire," the Swedish vampire drama "Let the Right One In" scared up $3 million, and February's release of Cuban-Wagner's 2929 production "Two Lovers" did $3.1 million in U.S. Topping them all should be the June release of documentary "Food Inc.," which is still playing and should deliver more than $4 million. There were disappointments, however, like the "The Great Buck Howard" and "Humpday," but aggressive VOD releases helps temper theatrical misfires. "At this point we haven't done any straight-to-VOD films," notes Bowles. "It may happen but now we're releasing in both (theatrical and VOD)."

In the pipeline: Robin Williams is currently in art houses in "World's Greatest Dad," followed in September by 2929 production "The Burning Plain," with Charlize Theron. An October release is planned for "Bronson," director Nicholas Winding Refn's look inside the mind of a famous British prisoner. November brings "Red Cliff 2," John Woo's Chinese period war epic. And Chinese film "War Lords," starring Jet Li, is due out early next year.

Executive status: Co-founder Bill Banowsky has moved on to consult for Cuban-Wagner elsewhere, so Bowles oversees former Miramax exec Neal Block (distribution), Matt Cowal (marketing) and Tom Quinn (acquisitions).

Here Films

Year so far: In a year that has seen a complete reinvention of the former Regent Releasing, the largest multiplatform source for gays and lesbians won a best foreign-language film Oscar for Japanese pickup "Departures" -- not to mention $1 million in domestic gross. After selling its two movie theaters, acquiring Gay.com and Planet Out (for $16 million in stock) as well as the Advocate, Out and HIV Plus magazines (for another $6 million), the theatrical distribution arm is increasingly open to mainstream fare as well as content that powers Here's successful subscription cable channel. Top performers include March release "Tokyo Sonata," which grossed $300,000, and May's "Little Ashes," which grossed about $500,000. "A lot of these are done as theatrical releases to promote their airing on the Here! Network," says president and CEO Paul Colichman. "So when you look at those you have to look at the cross-platform strategy that our company has in mind."

In the pipeline: The company's 400 hours of programs annually for cable and online includes about 10 movies a year with budgets up to $2 million, plus acquisitions for U.S. and world cinema releases. Upcoming releases include Cannes Directors Fortnight winner "I Killed My Mother" from Canada, Berlin Silver Bear winner "About Elly" from Iran, and Kenneth Branagh's opera movie "The Magic Flute."

Executive status: Now a public company but not yet traded, Here Media toppers are chairman Stephen P. Jarchow and Colichman, who between them invested $30 million in past year. Mark Reinhart heads distribution and acquisitions, John Lambert oversees theatrical distribution, Liz Mackiewicz handles sales and distribution for Here! Jonathan Aubry heads marketing.

Oscilloscope Laboratories

Year so far: Founded last year by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, Oscilloscope has already acquired 18 films, many with environmental and political themes. Its biggest hit, the Michelle Williams starrer "Wendy and Lucy," grossed slightly less than $1 million. Other titles include Korea's "Treeless Mountain"; Oscar-nominated doc "The Garden," about a political fight over a community garden in South Central Los Angeles; "Burma VJ," a doc about rogue journalists who smuggled illegal footage out of that country; and "Unmistaken Child," a documentary about a Tibetan monk's search for the reincarnation of his master. "That's doing very well," says David Fenkel, a former ThinkFilm exec who runs the company with Yauch. "It is about to cross $200,000."

In the pipeline: While Oscilloscope hopes to move into production, it continues its policy of releasing only acquisitions with "No Impact Man: The Documentary," which opens in September and follows a family that decides to leave no environmental impact for an entire year; "The Messenger," a Woody Harrelson starrer about an Iraq War veteran who comes home and is assigned to notify kin when a soldier dies; and Michel Gondry's "The Thorn in the Heart," out in 2010.

Executive status: Yauch announced in July that he was diagnosed with treatable cancer, but he says it's business as usual at the company. Jonathan Howell, formerly with New Yorker Films, joined this year to handle theatrical distribution.

Peace Arch


Year so far: Two years after moving into theatrical distribution, Peace Arch continues to open smaller films as a boost before their DVD debut. It's had three releases this year: "JCVD," a mockumentary with Jean-Claude Van Damme as himself that proved its biggest grosser, earning $470,000; "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" with Peter Sarsgaard, Nick Nolte and Sienna Miller; and "Fragments," with Kate Beckinsale and Dakota Fanning. After selling its DVD distribution operation in April to Phase 4 Films, Peace Arch plans to ramp up a new operation in the next few months.

In the pipeline: No projects are currently scheduled.

Executive status: After the short-lived tenure of CEO Gerry Noble, who left the company in March, Peace Arch president John Flock was also named CEO.

Roadside Attractions

Year so far: Veering from its usual risk-adverse strategy of being a distributor for hire, Roadside put its own money behind the March release of "Goodbye Solo," Ramin Bahrani's drama about a Senegalese taxi driver in North Carolina, and grossed a profitable $800,000. "It was kind of an interesting experiment for us," co-president Howard Cohen says. Otherwise, the company handled theatrical releases for other producers and Lionsgate, a minority investor since July 2007. Its biggest bomb for a client was May's 3D release "Battle for Terra," which was starved for 3D screens that went to "Monsters vs. Aliens." June's Iranian drama "The Stoning of Soraya M" won critical notice, but ticket sales plateaued at $500,000. And July's Kevin Spacey dramedy "Shrink" and dolphin-rescue doc "The Cove" -- both for Lionsgate -- have been disappointments.

In the pipeline: Cohen has high hopes for a pair of fall documentaries, "The September Issue," an inside look at Vogue editor Anna Wintour; and "Good Hair," produced by Chris Rock. Boxing drama "From Mexico With Love," will open on 300 screens in 25 heavily Latino markets.

Executive status: Cohen and Eric d'Arbeloff remain co-presidents, heading a 15-person staff with Dennis O'Connor (marketing), Gail Blumenthal (distribution), Dustin Smith (business affairs, acquisitions) and Veronica Bufalini (publicity).

Samuel Goldwyn Films

Year so far: A savvy faith-based campaign helped last fall's "Fireproof" gross $33 million, one of the biggest pure indie performers all year. "It's like selling a silk suit," president Meyer Gottlieb says of marketing to faith-based moviegoers. "Some will accept the label but these people want to feel the fabric." Goldwyn hasn't come close to that kind of success this year, with releases like "Dark Streets," "Brothers at War," "American Violet" and "The Merry Gentleman" failing to resonate much at all. Even the pairing of Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn couldn't boost May's "Management" to the $1 million domestic mark. But the Paul Giamatti sci-fi pic "Cold Souls" is still platforming and the company announced a potentially lucrative output deal with upstart pay cabler Epix.

In the pipeline: Despite the recession, Goldwyn is still looking to distribute 10-12 films a year. The upcoming slate includes genre fare like "Blood: The Last Vampire," the Corbin Bleu racing movie "Free Style" and the William Hurt-Maria Bello romance "The Yellow Handkerchief." Gottieb is hoping the economy puts an end to the glut of films released in the U.S. each year. "I'd like to see it come down to 450 (films per year), then it'll be an attractive business model," he says. "We're just going through transition period, I think the future is very bright.

Executive status: President and CEO Samuel Goldwyn Jr. runs the company with Gottlieb as president, Michael Silberman as head of distribution and Peter Goldwyn as vp acquisitions.

Zeitgeist Films


Year so far: It has been a challenging 2009 for 21-year-old Zeitgeist, which continues its mission of releasing foreign films and documentaries. None of its five releases has been the kind of breakout hit it would like, co-president Emily Russo acknowledges. Among the releases: Kazakhstan's "Tulpan" (Zeitgeist's biggest grosser, with $140,000); the documentary "Examined Life," about eight contemporary philosophers; Carlos Saura's Portuguese doc about the song genre "Fados"; Turkish helmer Nuri Bilge Ceylan's acclaimed "Three Monkeys" (the two latter pictures both inherited from now-defunct New Yorker Films) and "Afghan Star," a documentary about an "American Idol"-style show in Afghanistan.

In the pipeline: Coming up: "Earth Days," Robert Stone's doc about the history of the environmental movement, that closed Sundance; Jennifer Baichwal's "Act of God," a doc about people who have been struck by lightning; and "The Horse Boy," a doc about a kid with autism who is transformed by riding horses in Mongolia.

Executive status: Russo and co-president Nancy Gerstman continue to preside over a staff of eight.
-Nielsen Business Media
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