HDNet Films, the unit of 2929 Entertainment that produces high-def films budgeted under $5 million, is undergoing a management change: Producing partners Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente are leaving the label they founded.
Their contract expires at the end of September, and they will move on after January’s Sundance Film Festival.
“Jason and Joana did a fantastic job, and HDNet Films accomplished what it set out to do,” said 2929 Entertainment co-head Todd Wagner, who was en route to the Toronto Film Festival, where HDNet’s latest pics, Brian De Palma’s $5 million antiwar film “Redacted” and Doug Pray and Graydon Carter’s documentary “Surfwise,” will screen.
“As we go forward, a lot of that firepower will now reside under 2929’s Marc Butan and Magnolia’s Eamonn Bowles. We’re not scaling back in any way on the movies we make. We’re going to continue to make movies under that banner.”
“Redacted” goes out in November. Magnolia will distribute “Surfwise” in the U.S. but no release date has been set.
Some five pictures are in various stages of production. Marc Levin’s documentary “Mr. Untouchable” opens Oct. 19. In the works are Alex Gibney and Carter’s colorful portrait of Hunter S. Thompson, “Hunter”; Carlos Brooks’ “Quid Pro Quo,” starring Vera Farmiga as a woman who gets involved with Nick Stahl’s wheelchair-bound journalist; “American Swing,” a documentary about Plato’s Retreat; and an untitled gospel movie.
Over four years, the most successful pic on Kliot and Vicente’s ambitious slate of films released through Magnolia Pictures was Gibney’s Oscar-nominated “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” which grossed more than $4 million, mostly on 2929’s Landmark Theater circuit. When “Enron” premiered simultaneously in theaters and on 2929’s cable channel HDNet Movies, bigger theater chains refused to book the film. Steven Soderbergh’s “Bubble” was released at the same time in theaters, HDNet Movies and homevideo and failed to recoup its $2 million budget. A second bare-bones HDNet film from Soderbergh will begin production next year, Wagner said.
Other HDNet films that failed to score include Mathew Tauber’s “The Architect,” Katherine Dieckmann’s Hamptons drama “Diggers,” Gibney’s jazz doc “Hancock,” J.T. Petty’s horror documentary “S&Man,” Hal Hartley’s spy thriller “Fay Grim,” Zoe Cassavetes’ “Broken English,” “The War Within,” and “One Last Thing.”
Four years later, there’s a bountiful supply of high-def movies, so producing them for HDNet is no longer a priority, Wagner said. “We still need to make good movies,” he said.
Wagner also hopes to loosen the purse strings at Magnolia so that Bowles “can acquire bigger movies,” he said.
At Toronto, Wagner will also attend the opening of 2929’s “In Bloom,” rights to which are for sale at the fest.