Big Budget strategy fades after 'Penelope'

IFC Entertainment is returning to its focus on distributing indie films with budgets of up to $3 million and ditching its strategy of releasing bigger-budgeted pics.

Company is opting to focus more on its IFC First Take label, which releases pics simultaneously to theaters and on cable TV via on-demand services.

The company’s shift has emerged in the wake of its recent decision to back off from releasing “Penelope,” which it acquired last year at Toronto. The Reese Witherspoon vehicle had originally been set for an April bow, but was shifted and would have opened Friday before IFC pulled the plug.

The move away from handling bigger-budgeted projects ends what amounted to a one-year experiment with one film — “You Kill Me,” which opened earlier this year and grossed $2.4 million. And the shift comes as companies handling the mid-tier range of films, such as Overture, Sidney Kimmel, Lionsgate and Summit, are growing.

IFC’s First Take program, launched last year, is designed to boost the availability of smaller indie pics by making titles available for download by about 40 million cable subscribers day-and-date with the theatrical release. Recent First Take releases include “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and “This Is England”; upcoming titles include “Paranoid Park,” “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” and “Flight of the Red Balloon.”

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