IFC raised eyebrows in Cannes by grabbing three films, including Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days” and Gus Van Sant‘s “Paranoid Park.”
All are bound for the company’s fledgling day-and-date banner First Take, a fest fixture whose raison d’etre remains a bit murky for even the most seasoned Croisette vets.
Launched in January 2006, First Take is essentially a library play, aiming for 24 releases a year. After paying generally five-figure sums for films, it debuts them simultaneously in theaters, on VOD and, in some cases, on iTunes.
IFC Entertainment prexy Jonathan Sehring says the venture was born of economic change.
“We saw a lot of (festival) movies that we fell in love with, but realized that the economic model for a traditional theatrical distribution was really tough,” he says. “We hated to see these movies not getting distribution and we wanted to make them work.”
Of the banner’s 30 releases to date, its biggest theatrical hit is 2006 Palme d’Or winner “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” which has grossed $1.6 million this spring. “The Trouble With Men and Women” took in only $967.
“We are not making money hand over fist,” Sehring says, “but we are not losing money.” IFC’s corporate ties to Cablevision and Rainbow Media made VOD a natural outlet, though the company won’t disclose specific download figures.
Other day-and-date believers are trying to take the concept broader, as Magnolia will with Brian De Palma‘s “Redacted” in the fall.
But Sehring vows to “stick to our knitting” with indie and foreign fare. Due June 22 is a New Zealand cult fave from last year’s Toronto fest, “Black Sheep.”