Good taste, shrewd financing brings success
Big Beach Films should consider a bold new strategy: Make only movies with the word “sunshine” in the titles.
“Sunshine Cleaning,” with more than $11 million in domestic B.O. since a limited March bow, has become the production/finance company’s biggest breakout since “Little Miss Sunshine” in 2006.
Well-reviewed at Sundance in 2008, the Amy Adams-Emily Blunt starrer didn’t spark the bidding war or the record acquisition price of its yellow-bus predecessor. Overture scooped it up a month after the festival for a price reportedly below its $7 million cost.
“Cleaning’s” opening kicked off a flurry of activity for Big Beach.
Next up are “Away We Go” directed by Sam Mendes, which opens June 5 via Focus; and potential late-year release “Jack Goes Boating,” the helming debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The Gotham-based outfit has attained a rep for securing key attachments with quality scripts and stepping up to play the role of lead financier.
“Away We Go” is a case in point. While wrapping up the intense, big-budget “Revolutionary Road,” Mendes was looking for a leaner, lighter project. “Away,” which stars John Krasinski of “The Office” and Maya Rudolph, formerly of ‘Saturday Night Live,” fit the bill.
The film, budgeted at around $25 million, tracks a couple’s cross-country search for a place to have their first child. Novelist Dave Eggers co-wrote the screenplay.
“We hope it’s the kind of film that will play well in the summer, which has shown to be a time when audiences are looking for alternatives,” says co-head Peter Saraf. “It’s funny and affecting and has that summer feel to it.”
Big Beach has played the field in terms of distributors, trying to find the right home for each pic. The company is expanding into legit, TV and possibly domestic film distribution, all of which could ease the pressure for individual pics to succeed.
Last month, it self-distribbed Michael Caine starrer “Is Anybody There?” through Story Island Ent., which will reach a domestic cume of $1.5 million. An Off Broadway show the company backed, the Mike Birbiglia solo “Sleepwalk With Me,” is winding up a successful seven-month run in June.
Backed by private equity (co-head Marc Turtletaub founded the Money Store), the company is nearing its fifth anni having managed to weather the specialty biz downturn with aplomb. Turtletaub and Saraf have attained a rep for combining discerning tastes with sufficient liquidity to fund projects of up to $25 million and potentially higher. They had never met before John Sloss introduced them six years ago, when they decided to join forces and make “Everything Is Illuminated.”
“They’re well capitalized, so they don’t have to wait for foreign sales or soft money. They can just pull the trigger,” says Overture Films chief operating officer Danny Rosett. “At the same time, they have a really great independent production sensibility where they’re always aiming for quality. Usually, it’s one or the other, but they’ve got both.”
Big Beach’s Gotham-skewed sensibility reflects the many stage actors the company’s worked with.
“Peter is obviously a guy who gets his inspiration from everywhere,” says Hoffman, whose LAByrinth theater company mounted “Jack Goes Boating” as an Off Broadway show that first caught Saraf’s eye. “That’s my kind of guy. You can’t just stay in your room reading spec scripts. You have to get out and experience theater and art and the world around you.”