Topper McGurk hopes to replicate the success of SXSW winner ‘Short Term 12’ at the box office
“We’re looking to buy movies, now that we have a real track record,” McGurk said on arriving on the film festival’s opening day Thursday. “Our team is going to see seven or eight films a day. They’ll call me in if they feel we have to buy something.”
That scenario played out at South by Southwest, when Cinedigm acquired rights to “Short Term” (pictured) after Kristin Harris and Emily Rothschild told McGurk that he had to buy the film — which won both the audience and jury awards at the fest.
The publicly traded company built its business converting thousands of theaters around the country to digital and is ramping up a slate that includes up to 20 titles a year targeted for theatrical bows combined with VOD and ultra-VOD releases.
The company has seen solid box office success so far with “Short Term 12” with Brie Larson starring as a foster-care worker. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, its late summer release date was positioned to put it ahead of the fall crush of prestige pics. The drama’s taken in nearly $200,000 in less than two weeks at just 16 theaters and has a 98% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Additionally, Cinedigm is planning an awards push for Larson — similar to what McGurk concocted in 2008 at Overture when Richard Jenkins received an Oscar nom for “The Visitor.”
“I mentioned Richard Jenkins when I was pitching our acquisition proposal,” he says.
McGurk admits that Cinedigm wasn’t in much of a position to make acquistions at last year’s TIFF, which took place a month after Vincent Scordino had been named head of acquisitions. Since then, it’s partnered with Tribeca Enterprises on a premium VOD release for Julianne Moore’s “The English Teacher,” four weeks before the theaterical launch; one day-and-date with a theatrical and VOD release on “Don’t Stop Believing,” a doc about the band Journey. It’s teamed with Film Arcade on “Afternoon Delight,” which opened theatrically last weekend with $27,352 at two screens.
“Nobody’s quite figured out how to make VOD work every time — it’s an imperfect science,” McGurk says. “But I think our flexibility is attractive to filmmakers because they know that they need their movie to be profitable in order to get their next movie.”