IFC’s indie synergies

Multipronged approach boosts 'Decade' docu

HOLLYWOOD — The New York launch party tonight for the theatrical release, television broadcast and video-on-demand offering of “A Decade Under the Influence” spearheads IFC’s intention to maximize synergy and become a more fully integrated media company.

While studio players like Disney, Warner and Fox all have small-screen siblings within their corporate families, IFC represents the only independent entertainment unit with a film production and distribution arm, a television network and a VOD service at its disposal.

“With a lot of those corporate examples, the synergy is there, but it’s in different brands,” IFC Cos. president Kathy Dore told Daily Variety. “There are two things that make IFC different: We’re doing this under one brand, which we think can really come to be identified with the category, and we are limiting it to the niche of independent film.”

Multiple versions

A documentary by Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme about the countercultural Hollywood talent explosion of the 1970s, “Decade” will be released theatrically April 25 by IFC Entertainment in the feature version that bowed at Sundance.

In August, the IFC Network will premiere a three-part series culled from the film, followed by a further expanded, interactive version for IFC’s VOD service.

While this kind of three-pronged, multiple-version strategy is in many ways unique to a documentary of this type and will not be an option on most releases, the “Decade” launch is illustrative of the marketing approach IFC intends to employ down the road.

“I look at it as the first perfect example of what we’re trying to do with the company as a whole,” Dore explained. “That is, to use film production and distribution to really drive and grow all of the businesses including television, which is what started out as our core business.”

Putting pieces together

Another element to this pan-divisional approach will be added as IFC moves into exhibition with the upcoming opening of the group’s revamped three-screen Waverly Theater, providing a guaranteed downtown Gotham opening and a visible platform from which to build awareness of the distrib’s releases.

“When the distribution side of the company was launched, distribution and production were two separate entities,” IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring said.

“The focus over the past six to nine months has been solely on putting all the pieces of IFC together to form this multitiered company,” he continued. “What’s happening now is that the entire company is behind everything we’re doing in terms of distributing the product that we produce.”

Rumors that IFC’s theatrical distribution unit would be shuttered have circulated since the departure last year of former film chief Bob Berney, who shepherded hits “Y tu mama tambien” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” But this new push seems designed to erase those signals of uncertainty and rudderlessness.

Early awareness

Sehring said the “Decade” strategy will be applied in various ways on such upcoming releases as Todd Graff’s “Camp,” another Sundance hit, due out July 25; on director John Sayles’ “Casa de los Babys” in the fall; and next year on John Crowley’s “Intermission,” produced by Stephen Woolley and Neil Jordan; and Rebecca Miller’s “Rose and the Snake” with Daniel Day-Lewis.

The synergistic approach already is being applied to create early awareness on the Sayles movie, with the director and cast members Lili Taylor and Maggie Gyllenhaal guesting on Jon Favreau-hosted IFC series “Dinner for Five,” along with advance screenings and receptions for the film. IFC hopes to premiere “Casa” at Cannes or Venice.

“Our head of marketing is responsible for both the network and the distribution company, and our staff is fully integrated across the different divisions,” Sehring explained. “We’re really coming up with a new model for how you do this stuff, integrating what we do on the network with our new-media businesses. You’re going to see a lot of on-air promotion supporting the releases, not just on IFC but throughout all of the Rainbow and Cable Vision companies.”

IFC also is examining the possibility of releasing smaller films theatrically in key markets while going out simultaneously with a VOD launch in markets not sufficiently receptive to non-mainstream product to sustain a theatrical run.

“We’re looking at ‘Decade’ as a template for this new IFC business that we’re working on, and it will continue to evolve over the next couple of years,” Sehring said.

Dore added: “What we’ve been trying to do since the start with IFC is to expand opportunities for filmmakers and increase the number of independent films that get financed and made, but also try very directly to build a national audience for independent film where there hasn’t been one before.”

IFC Prods. has three films in next month’s Tribeca Film Festival: Alan Taylor’s darkly comic riff on the American dream, “Kill the Poor”; Maxie Collier’s docu examination of hip-hop entrepreneurs, “Paper Chasers”; and “This So-Called Disaster,” Michael Almereyda’s chronicle of the staging of Sam Shepard’s play “The Late Henry Moss.”

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