Indie outfits ThinkFilm and Killer Films announced an unusual multiyear agreement Wednesday that will allow them to jointly develop, finance, produce and distribute pics worldwide.
Under the pact, which takes effect immediately, Think will contribute a fee (which it would not disclose) to Killer’s overhead; in return it will have the right to finance and distribute individual pics from Killer’s sizable development pool. Killer will gain an established marketing and distribution operation.
Killer, a longtime Gotham hive of production known for titles including “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Far From Heaven,” typically has dozens of projects in development. In certain cases, pact will allow Think to exec produce titles that it does not elect to distribute. There is no set number of pics expected to fall under the arrangement.
“It’s a combination of an old-style first-look deal and a greater commitment,” said Randy Manis, Think exec VP of acquisitions and biz affairs, who negotiated the deal with CAA and John Sloss and Dan Steinman of Sloss Law Office. Manis added that the deal “effectively replicates the structure of a studio specialty division.”
The two companies had been discussing a formal collaboration for several months, and the deal points were hammered out after common cinematic ground was reached.
“The independent arena in New York is a small community,” said Mark Urman, head of Think’s theatrical division. “You socialize. You’re on the same airplanes, at the same events. And at a certain point, you realize that films that you like are coming from the same source.”
Like many indie players, Think has faced increased pressure as the acquisitions market for finished films has become choppier and the studio specialty arms have bulked up in the search for the next “Brokeback Mountain” or “Little Miss Sunshine.” In five years, Think’s biggest hits have been seven-figure grossers that include “Spellbound” and “The Aristocrats.”
The combination of the Killer pact and the acquisition of Think last October by film financier David Bergstein means Think can have a chance to compete with deep-pocketed rivals. The recent Oscar push for “Half Nelson” directly benefited from Bergstein’s investment and is considered a sign of things to come.
Killer, meanwhile, retains its relationship with John Wells, whose production company has helped fund Killer for the past six-plus years in exchange for an exec producer credit for Wells. But while it has played the field in terms of distribution, pacting with the Weinstein Co., Warner Independent and Picturehouse for recent titles, Killer sought a longer-term partner.
“I’ve always admired Think’s tastes,” Killer principal Christine Vachon said. “These days, it also really helps to have a lot of options. We can bring them in to handle foreign sales; they could fully finance or bring us equity partners. This just expands the possibilities.”