Davies’ dedication: Relativity distribution president honored for humanitarianism


ShowEast’s Salah M. Hassanein Humanitarian Award this year goes to Kyle Davies, president of worldwide distribution at Relativity Media. The award was established in 1987 and has been presented each year to a leader in the industry who has distinguished him or herself in the philanthropic community.

Serving in his current post since 2011, Davies has oversight of the overall distribution strategies for all movies produced and acquired by Relativity. He also played an instrumental role in the company’s evolution from a powerhouse financing and producing entity into a full-fledged studio. In 2010, he became president of theatrical distribution, after Relativity acquired Overture Films’ marketing and distribution assets.

Davies previously served as executive VP of theatrical distribution for Overture Films, where he handled the distribution of such titles as Law Abiding Citizen, Brooklyn’s Finest, The Crazies and The Visitor, the latter a critically acclaimed art-house performer.

At Relativity, Davies has supervised releases of such films as the mystery-drama Safe Haven, the Snow White spin Mirror Mirror, the gripping Navy SEALs actioner Act of Valor, the Greek-mythology fantasy Immortals and the surprise hit Limitless, among others. Currently, Relativity’s Don Jon, a nasty, clever, deliciously cast and daring take on a guy and his porn addiction has writer/director/star Joseph Gordon-Levitt seeing action on the big screen. Also in theatres is Relativity’s The Family, starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones in a Normandy invasion of Mafiosi in a witness-protection program.

Prior to Overture, Davies was senior VP of distribution at Paramount Pictures, where he worked on releases including Mission: Impossible III and Over the Hedge. He joined Paramount following its purchase of DreamWorks, where he served as senior VP of distribution and was involved in such releases as Dreamgirls, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty, Shrek and Shrek II.

After receiving two B.S. degrees, in Radio-TV-Film and Advertising, from the University of Texas, Davies began his entertainment career working at major theatre chains like National Amusements and General Cinema.

Commenting on the issues of day-and-date and narrowing windows, Davies joins the majority in calling a film’s theatrical debut “the most important component of a movie’s life cycle,” adding that a strong theatrical start usually leads to the film’s successful journey beyond. He continues, “So while the ancillary windows have always adjusted and will continue to evolve, we believe it’s important to maintain the windows in such a way that ensures and doesn’t interfere with a robust theatrical run.”

Like others who have worked in theatres and at distribution companies, Davies cherishes his luck in having had opportunities “on both sides of the equation. There’s a common goal for both exhibition and distribution, which is simply driving a strong box-office result. Obviously, it’s a competitive landscape and sometimes the common goals for exhibitor and distributor can get complicated. But having been on both sides, I have a better understanding of what motivates both exhibitor and distributor to get the results both want.”

Regarding what film performances teach about audiences and how fragmented they might be, Davies observes, “Our successes have been films that offer both a good story and an original approach. For instance, Limitless was a traditional thriller, but it had a fresh angle based on current scientific breakthroughs, so it was both plausible and exciting. And although Act of Valor was a traditional story of war heroes, it was told from the unique voice of actual Navy SEALs and that had not been done before. I don't see audiences as fragmented, but it’s their availability that is at a premium. They are inundated with quality content on many different platforms. So whether you’re an exhibitor or studio, you’re competing for a consumer's time. So you have got to give consumers a great experience in the theatres and a great story up on the screen.”

But with the films up to snuff, how might theatres help in boosting the traffic? Davies responds, “Most exhibitors know their markets and know their consumers, and they do a great job of tending to those needs. Obviously, consumers have all those choices, so one bad experience can keep them from a theatre. So there’s just no margin for error anymore. Of course, great presentation in an exciting environment is what theatre owners do best. But it’s up to studios to deliver product that is well worth the ticket price.”

Davies does see one area for improvement. “I think it would help for studios to work hand-in-hand with exhibition to communicate with moviegoers in more creative ways. Charging away with TV spots no longer gets you where you need to be. In our digital world, there’s vast potential to communicate with the moviegoer in more creative ways.”

As for what Relativity has in the pipeline, he sees the upcoming animated buddy comedy Free Birds, in theatres on Nov. 1, as a “great family title. It’s great entertainment for all ages, something the whole family can enjoy together. And it’s always nice to have a movie that plays broadly going into the holidays.” And come early December, Relativity will debut Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace, starring a double talent whammy of Christian Bale and Casey Affleck. 
For next year, Davies is “very excited” about the action thriller Three Days to Kill, which stars Kevin Costner as a desperate Secret Service agent under the direction of McG (Charlie’s Angels). “It’s from the same producers as Taken and should deliver a very similar blast of action.”

Like many others, Davies is upbeat about the theatrical business. “In spite of how competitive entertainment is today, I think we’re in a very good place. Yes, the success of television and the popularity of gaming has raised the bar for the studios, so there’s more pressure for us to continue to make more compelling entertainment. But there is no better place to experience entertainment than on the big screen with a community of movie lovers.”

Beyond his rich career in film, Davies’ has given richly to his charitable activities, which include being a member of the executive committee of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, a member and supporter of the Motion Picture Club Foundation and supporter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Such an impressive double feature of professional and charitable commitments make him a worthy honoree of the Salah M. Hassanein Humanitarian Award.