From A24 to WWE, who's set to open wallets at festival
The Sundance Film Festival attracts a wide variety of independent and studio-affiliated distributors. Meet some of the nearly 40 companies that are shopping for pics at this year’s fest.A24 Principals: David Fenkel, Daniel Katz, John Hodges Execs on the ground: Fenkel, Katz and Hodges; Noah Sacco, Matt Bires, Nicolette Aizenberg Years at Sundance: First — former Oscilloscope Laboratories co-founder Fenkel and his partners launched A24 ahead of Toronto, where its first acquisition title, “Ginger & Rosa,” had a special presentation. A24 is looking to release eight to 10 films a year, several theatrically, as well as produce. Sundance strategy: “Discover movies and have some fun.” ANCHOR BAY Principal: Bill Clark, CEO Execs on the ground: Kevin Kasha, Josh Thomashow, Michele Sanchez Years at Sundance: 6 Last year: Acquired horror pic “Excision” in the weeks after last year’s fest, the company’s eighth acquisition out of Park City, including top performer “Brooklyn’s Finest.” Strategy: “Anchor Bay Films is looking for a wide variety of films to feed the various distribution platforms they offer. The company does not limit itself to specific genres as evidenced by its many types of releases.” CBS FILMS Principals: Co-presidents Wolfgang Hammer and Terry Press Execs on the ground: Scott Shooman, Steven Friedlander, Lauren Fisher, Winnie Kemp Years at Sundance: 4 Last year: Acquired Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana starrer “The Words” on the first day of the festival after a private screening; pic grossed $11.5 million in domestic theatrical release. Strategy: “We’re looking for strong films with theatrical potential regardless of genre.” CINEDIGM Principals: Chris McGurk, CEO Execs on the ground: McGurk; entertainment co-presidents Susan Margolin and Steve Savage; Vinnie Scordino, VP of acquisitions Years at Sundance: 2 (first as a full-service distribution company) Last year: No Sundance titles, though Cinedigm was active in acquisitions over the past year, picking up 11 pics, including Oscar-nominated docu “The Invisible War” and “Arthur Newman” with Colin Firth and Emily Blunt. Strategy: “We are not looking for your typical independent films — we’re actively looking to find and cultivate the next breakout indie talents and uncover and support the as-of-yet unknown rabble-rousing docs that will stir viewers to action.” COHEN MEDIA GROUP Principals: Charles S. Cohen, chairman/CEO; Daniel Battsek, president; Steve Scheffer and Edmondo Schwartz, partners Exec on the ground: Gary Rubin, EVP Years at Sundance: 3 Strategy: Though Rubin has been coming to Sundance for more than a dozen years, Cohen Media Group has yet to buy a title out of Park City. DRAFTHOUSE FILMS Principal: Tim League, CEO/founder Execs on the ground: League, COO James Emanuel Shapiro, creative director Evan Husney Years at Sundance: 2 Last year: Purchased “Ambassador,” which Drafthouse reports as a success, and “Wrong,” which comes out this year. Strategy: “We look to Sundance to introduce us to the best the world has to offer so our expectations are always high. We’ll go after anything that has us leaving the theater with goosebumps and leaves us thinking about it for a long time.” ENTERTAINMENT ONE Principals: CEO Darren Throop and filmed entertainment prexy Patrice Theroux Execs on the ground: Lara Thompson, EVP of filmed entertainment, Sejin Croninger, VP of worldwide acquisitions Years at Sundance: 4 Last year: Acquired “The Pact” for U.K. rights and “Wish You Were Here,” which opens this year. Strategy: “Given the scope of eOne’s global operations, we are taking a look at quite a few films and are actively looking to acquire for our key territories — North America, United Kingdom, Benelux, Australia, Spain — focusing on upscale fare with strong commercial potential.” EXCLUSIVE RELEASING Principal: Matt Brodlie, head of acquisitions Execs on the ground: Brodlie, Lejo Pet Years at Sundance: First Strategy: “Exclusive Releasing is at Sundance looking for theatrical projects that can break out beyond the arthouse circuit to release in the domestic marketplace across all platforms.” THE FILM ARCADE Principals: Miranda Bailey, Jason Beck, Andy Bohn, Matt Leutwyler Execs on the ground: All of the above attending; Beck is the company’s acquisitions executive Years at Sundance: 2; Film Arcade was launched at Sundance 2012. Last year: Co-bought with Lionsgate “The Other Dream Team,” which was released theatrically in more than 40 markets this fall, grossing just under $200,000. Lionsgate is releasing the film on DVD and VOD in January. Strategy: “The Film Arcade is focused on acquiring director-driven films with strong theatrical potential.” FILMDISTRICT Principal: CEO Peter Schlessel Execs on the ground: Schlessel; acquisitions EVP Lia Buman; acquisitions manager Josie Liang; acquisitions coordinator Josh Peters Years at Sundance: 3 Last year: Closed on “Safety Not Guaranteed” very late in the fest; pic made more than $4 million at the domestic box office. Strategy: “Looking to offer audiences something unexpected and entertaining as a counter-programming strategy for the summer and possibly fall. FilmDistrict tends to gravitate toward films it feels are unique while also having commercial appeal.” FOCUS FEATURES Principals: CEO James Schamus, president Andrew Karpen Execs on the ground: Peter Kujawski, Avy Eschenasy, Kent Sanderson (Focus World) Years at Sundance: 11 Last year: Bought worldwide rights to raunchy comedy “For a Good Time, Call …” shortly after its premiere for more than $2 million; pic grossed $1.25 million domestic theatrically. Top Focus performer out of Sundance, “The Kids Are All Right,” grossed $21 million domestic in 2010 and was nominated for four Oscars, including best picture. Strategy: “Focus maintains its interest in acquisitions across a broad range of genres. The company’s digital arm, Focus World, has successfully released and co-released a number of Sundance titles including ‘Resurrect Dead,’ and ‘1/2 Revolution.'” FOX SEARCHLIGHT Principals: Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, co-presidents Execs on the ground: Claudia Lewis, president of production; Tony Safford, EVP worldwide acquisitions; Ray Strache, acquisitions and co-productions VP Years at Sundance: 19 Last year: Acquired “Beasts of the Southern Wild” early in the 2012 fest, just days after a few outliers predicted Oscar attention for Benh Zeitlin’s first effort. It paid off: “Beasts” was just nominated for four Academy Awards, including picture, director, actress and adapted screenplay. Strategy: “To acquire films that best fit with the Searchlight culture and sensibility,” the company says, and Searchlight has certainly done that, with a string of top-tier Sundance fare over the years, including “The Sessions,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Garden State,” “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” arguably the most successful pickup in Sundance history — and at more than $10 million, one of the most expensive. GODIGITAL Principal: CEO Logan Mulvey Execs on the ground: Mulvey, Jason Beck, Jane Rozelle Years at Sundance: 5 Last year: Focused on reintroducing GoDigital after acquiring digital rival Might Entertainment and shifting priority to premium independent content distribution. Strategy: “Looking to acquire films that will allow us to reach target audiences and drive viewership with the most effective release and marketing strategies.” GOLDWYN FILMS Principals: Samuel Goldwyn Jr., chairman and CEO; Meyer Gottlieb, president Execs on the ground: SVP Peter Goldwyn, distribution head Michael Silberman and Ian Puente, VP general counsel and VP of business affairs Years at Sundance: Just about every one Last year: Acquired “Robot & Frank,” one of the more successful films from the Sundance 2012 lineup at $3.3 million domestic theatrical. Strategy: “Goldwyn’s strategy for all festivals is to fall in love. We are not just there to fill a pipeline; we release films to which we feel we can deliver an audience. We also look for films that have audiences that we feel are underserved. Our approach with grassroots marketing has found success with a range of niche audiences, and we have been very successful with a number of movies that have been overlooked by other distributors.” GRAVITAS VENTURES Principals: Nolan Gallagher, founder and CEO Execs on the ground: Gallagher, president Michael Murphy, acquisitions VP Melanie Miller, business affairs VP Bendan Gallagher Years at Sundance: 4 Last year: With regular partner Variance Films, Gravitas acquired Mark Webber’s “The End of Love,” featuring Shannyn Sossamon, Isaac Love, Michael Cera and Amanda Seyfried; pic opens on VOD on Monday and theatrically on March 1. Strategy: Already acquired Dave Grohl’s documentary “Sound City”; looking for three to five more films to also be released in theaters and on VOD. IFC/SUNDANCE SELECTS/IFC MIDNIGHT Principal: Jonathan Sehring, president Execs on the ground: Sehring, Arianna Bocco, SVP of acquisitions and productions; Ryan Werner, SVP of marketing and publicity and Jeff Deutchman Years at Sundance: Since the company launched more than a decade ago. Last year: IFC was busy scooping up Sundance films in 2012 as usual, including: “Liberal Arts,” “How to Survive a Plague,” “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” and 2013 releases “Simon Killer” and “Room 237.” Strategy: “The company is always out in full force at Sundance. Often the team finds filmmakers that they have worked with before or new ones that they want to work with on films that they can successfully formulate the right distribution strategy.” INDOMINA Principal: Jasbinder Singh, CEO execS on the ground: Rob Williams, VP of acquisitions and distribution; Stephanie Denton, VP of international sales and acquisitions Years at Sundance: 5 Last year: Picked up four titles out of Park City, including foreign sales and domestic for “Filly Brown” and “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap”; and domestic distribution on “Luv” and docu “The Imposter,” which made a healthy $900,000 in the U.S. and is in awards contention. Strategy: Indomina makes no secret of its affinity for eclectic and urban fare, but is open to all commercially viable indies. With only four to five releases per year, Indomina prefers pickups with a “defined niche and real theatrical potential.” LD ENTERTAINMENT Principals: Mickey Liddell, CEO; David Dinerstein, president Execs on the ground: Liddell and Dinerstein; business operations VP Laith Massarweh; casting VP Deanna Brigidi-Stewart; director of development Patrick Raymond Years at Sundance: 2; LD Entertainment launched last year. Last year: Purchased horror thriller “Black Rock,” to be released May 17. LIONSGATE Principals: Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, co-chairmen; Steve Beeks, president and COO, Lionsgate motion picture group execS on the ground: Jason Constantine, president of acquisitions; Eda Kowan, SVP of acquisitions Years at Sundance: 17 Last year: Partnered with Roadside Attractions to acquire and release “Arbitrage,” whose $7.9 million domestic box office plus VOD made it the most successful day-and-date release in history, built on the success of previous year’s Lionsgate/Roadside acquisition “Margin Call,” widely considered the trailblazer for premium VOD. Also distributed 2009 Sundance audience award-winner “Precious,” which grossed $47.6 million in North America. Strategy: Lionsgate goes into Sundance excited to see everything. The company’s recent releases with partner Roadside Attractions, “Arbitrage” and “Margin Call,” are great examples of how VOD/PPV day-and-date releases can be very successful for films acquired out of the festival. MAGNOLIA/MAGNET RELEASING Principal: Eamonn Bowles, president Execs on the ground: Dori Begley, acquisitions SVP; Peter Van Steemberg, director of acquisitions; acquisitions manager John Von Thaden Years at Sundance: 11 Last year: Picked up four titles: “2 Days in New York,” “Queen of Versailles” and “John Dies at the End.” Strategy: “Acquire narrative and documentary features spanning all genres for the company’s multiple strategies including Ultra VOD and traditional theatrical releases.” MILLENNIUM ENTERTAINMENT Principals: Bill Lee, CEO; Steve Nickerson, president Execs on the ground: Tristen Tuckfield, VP of acquisitions; Davis Carter, acquisitions manager Years at Sundance: 3 Last year: Millennium was aggressive last year, snapping up U.S. rights to Rodrigo Cortes’ “Red Lights” just five days after it played to a packed Eccles theater. Pic pulled a paltry $52,624 from just two U.S. engagements, though Millennium says it “has had a very long life in the home entertainment market.” Strategy: Company is on the lookout for “cast-driven, high quality and well-reviewed films,” which certainly fits their recent slate, including “Bernie” (Jack Black), “The Paperboy” (Nicole Kidman) and last year’s “Rampart” (Woody Harrelson). OPEN ROAD Principal: CEO Tom Ortenberg Execs on the ground: Ortenberg; Ben Cotner, SVP of acquisitions; Keri Safran, director of acquisitions Years at Sundance: 2 Strategy: Open Road didn’t pick anything up from Park City in its freshman year, but they’re, well … open to it: “We view Sundance as a festival of the unexpected and a place where unique opportunities always arise. We are always open to new discoveries and this festival is the epicenter of such innovation in a number of genres.” OSCILLOSCOPE Principals: Dan Berger and David Laub Execs on the ground: Berger, Laub and Aaron Katz Years at Sundance: 5 Last year: Oscilloscope spun “Shut Up and Play the Hits,” “Hello I Must Be Going” and “28 Hotel Rooms” out of last year’s fest; prior Sundance acquisitions include “Bellflower” and “The Messenger.” Strategy: “Divide, conquer and stay warm. Oscilloscope currently has six films slated for release in 2013. We will be actively looking for films we are passionate about and feel would be a good fit for our sensibility for release throughout next year.” PARTICIPANT MEDIA Principals: Jim Berk, CEO Execs on the ground: Berk, production EVP Jonathan King, docu EVP Diane Weyerman (for world competition), docu VP Courtney Sexton (U.S. docs), television prexy Evan Shapiro. Years at Sundance: 10 Last year: Partnered with AFFRM on the release of incarceration drama “Middle of Nowhere,” which made $236,806 in limited U.S. release; previous Sundance pics include “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” “Circumstance” and “The Cove.” Strategy: For Participant, it’s about the do-goodery: Through distribution partnerships, Jeff Skoll’s company releases narrative and documentary features around which it can develop social action and advocacy programs, with the caveat that they must also perform commercially, like “The Cove,” which grossed nearly $1.2 million in limited worldwide release. PHASE4 FILMS Principal: Berry Meyerowitz Execs on the ground: Meyerowitz, Larry Greenberg, Katharyn Howe Years at Sundance: More than 10 Last year: Acquired “That’s What She Said” starring Anne Heche in March 2012 and “Another Happy Day,” starring Demi Moore and Ellen Barkin, the year before. Both found success on VOD. Strategy: “Phase 4 acquisitions execs aim to see as much as humanly possible during the festival, as they often find that the films that sound least suited to them end up being great fits for their slate.” PICTUREHOUSE Principals: Bob and Jeanne Berney Execs on the ground: Bob and Jeanne, sure as the snow will fall Years at Sundance: First as revived shingle Strategy: On the eve of Sundance, the Berneys announced that they were reviving Picturehouse, the banner they launched in 2005 and with “Pan’s Labyrinth” to its credit. Many had wondered when the Berneys would surface; no surprise they did so right before the fest. RADiUS-TWC Principals: Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, co-presidents Execs on the ground: Quinn, Janego, publicity EVP Liza Burnett Fefferman, marketing VP Heath Shapiro Years at Sundance: 17 (second as a separate company) Last year: Picked up “Bachelorette,” the first cross-platform release to hit No. 1 on iTunes and No. 4 on Rentrak’s top ten VOD titles. Strategy: “Radius, the first studio division dedicated to cross-platform distribution, uses both traditional and digital media to bring the highest quality films and other specialty entertainment to a wider audience than ever before. Company is poised to be an aggressive buyer at the fest with a strong pulse on what titles work best across all platforms.” ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS Principals: Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, co-presidents Execs on the ground: Cohen, d’Arbeloff, acquisitions and business affairs VP Dustin Smith Years at Sundance: 11 Last year: Picked up “Arbitrage,” which did $7.9 million at the North American box office and even more on VOD; is widely considered the most successful day-and-date movie of all time. Did a similar release the year before with “Margin Call,” which pulled down $5.5 million in domestic theaters. Strategy: “In its most basic form, Roadside is looking for two types of films at Sundance: 1. Quality, big star-driven films on which we partner with Lionsgate for release (i.e. ‘Arbitrage,’ ‘Margin Call’), and 2. Review-driven classic arthouse films which Roadside releases on its own (i.e. ‘Winter’s Bone,’ ‘The Cove’). Hopefully we can find a couple of each this year. Fingers crossed!” RLJ ENTERTAINMENT Principals: CEO Ted Green Execs on the ground: Chief acquisitions officer Bill Bromiley, VP Mark Ward Years at Sundance: 11 Last year: Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer,” currently in release on DVD/Blu-ray and VOD Strategy: “RLJ Entertainment is looking for genre films that will work across all platforms.” SNAGFILMS Principals: Rick Allen, founding CEO and board member. Execs on the ground: Allen, Andrew Mer (acquisitions); Damian Benders (programming & marketing), Stephanie Sharis (COO) Years at Sundance: 5 Last year: Did not acquire any films out of Sundance, but announced the acquisition of 16 non-fest films. Strategy: A full-service distribution company, SnagFilms specializes in digital distribution, with a footprint that includes its own site and subsidiary Indiewire.com; wide-spread web placement (over 110,000 sites); applications on all tablets, smartphones, connected TVs and major Over the Top boxes; and subdistribution to all major pay platforms. SONY PICTURES CLASSICS Principals: Co-presidents and co-founders Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Marcie Bloom execS on the ground: Barker, Bernard and Dylan Leiner. Years at Sundance: Every one Last year: SPC had an active 2012, including “Smashed” and “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” and docs “Searching for Sugar Man” and “West of Memphis.” Strategy: SPC gravitates toward upscale adult dramas with a mix of commercial appeal and awards potential. SONY PICTURES WORLDWIDE ACQUISITIONS Principals: Steve Bersch, president Execs on the ground: Acquisitions SVP Joe Matukewicz, Chan Phung, Tana Evans, Alex Zahn Years at Sundance: More than 10 Last year: Picked up “Robot & Frank” in a platform partnership with Samuel Goldwyn Films; pic earned $3.3 million domestically. Strategy: “We go in with a desire to find audience-driven movies, across a wide spectrum of genres (with recent acquisitions ranging from “The Raid” to “Robot & Frank”), either to augment the studio’s domestic and/or international release slates, or in partnership with an independent distributor, with the end goal of finding the right home for the right movie.” TRIBECA FILM Principals: Jane Rosenthal, CEO; Geoff Gilmore, CCO; Jon Patricof, President Execs on the ground: Todd Green, GM; Nick Savva, Director of Acquisitions; Alison Diviney, Acquisitions Manager Years at Sundance: 3 Last year: Tribeca Film acquired “The Comedy” and “For Ellen.” Strategy: “Tribeca Film acquires and releases over 25 films in North America each year, so Sundance is a key source of new titles. We are principally scouting for films which can find audiences across multiple platforms, including VOD and theatrical.” THE WEINSTEIN CO. Principals: Bob and Harvey Weinstein execs on the ground: COO David Glasser, acquisitions president Mark Gooder, acquisitions SVP Dan Guando; acquisitions VP Jennifer Malloy; production VP Julie Rapaport. Years at Sundance: Since its founding in 2005 Last year: Closed a deal to acquire Bruce Willis-starrer “Lay the Favorite” in the weeks after the festival; previous Sundance pickups include “Blue Valentine,” “The Tillman Story” and “Our Idiot Brother.” Strategy: “Like everyone else, we are looking for breakout titles in any genre — documentary/comedy/drama/horror.” WREKIN HILL Principals: Chris J. Ball, president and CEO; Rene Cogan, CFO and COO Execs on the ground: Ball, Cogan, Alex Mandell, Kaytlin Ferrigno Years at Sundance: 3 (was founded in 2010; Ball and Cogan have been attending since the early 1990s) Last year: Wrekin Hill has acquired more than 20 films at festivals and markets — just never one at Sundance. Strategy: “Aggressively looking to acquire films to complement its 2013 release slate. The company releases film theatrically in the U.S. and has a multiyear home entertainment output arrangement with Lionsgate in the U.S. and eOne in Canada.” WWE Principal: Michael Luisi Exec on the ground: Richard Lowell Last year: Got into a bidding war for two major films last year, but didn’t close a deal. Strategy: “Looking for films that fit its current strategy of adult fare — thrillers and horror — WWE plans to be a major player in the Midnight section.”
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