Altitude Film Entertainment Flying High With Midrange Movies

It’s been three years since U.K. industry veteran Will Clarke launched Altitude Film Entertainment, and in that time, the production-sales-distribution outfit has learned how to navigate a changing market and, more importantly, established a successful business model to do just that. Starting with a team of just three — Clarke jointly launched the company with former Exclusive Media managing director Andy Mayson and former Pathe Intl. sales exec Mike Runagall — the shingle now employs a team of 15, and has been involved in just shy of 30 movies, four of which it has steered into production.

It’s bringing a number of films to Cannes, including Gemma Arterton and Glenn Close starrer “She Who Brings Gifts”; Vincenzo Natali’s “In the Tall Grass,” based on a novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill; and WWII thriller “Anthropoid,” starring Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy. Black comedy “Kill Your Friends,” starring Nicolas Hoult, and Italian horse doc “Palio” will premiere in the market. Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse doc “Amy” (see review, page 88), which Altitude will release on July 3 in the U.K., snared a Cannes midnight slot.

Clarke says the company has exceeded its goals on the production side by listening to buyers. “We’ve shifted our plan to match international tastes,” says the co-topper, who founded U.K. distrib Optimum Releasing in 1999, and sold it to Studiocanal in 2006. “This means producing (fewer) smaller pictures, and developing bigger ones.”

A notable example is the $13 million Samuel L. Jackson starrer “Big Game,” based on a young adult novel about a boy camping in the woods in Finland who helps the U.S. president when Air Force One is shot down nearby. Currently in wide release through eOne in the U.K., where it’s done some $1.5 million at the box office, the film is slated for U.S. release June 26 through EuropaCorp USA.

Altitude boarded the project when Finnish helmer-scribe Jalmari Helander came to Clarke with the idea for the movie, which became a hot script, raising 35% of the budget from pre-sales, filling the gap with equity financing, and structuring the project as a German co-production. EuropaCorp USA acquired the film for $4 million at the Toronto Film Festival last year.

“It’s the film that has proved the model for us,” Clarke says. “The natural symbiosis between international sales and production means that we have been able to secure (financing) on midlevel budgets, between $13 million and $20 million.”

In addition, Altitude has produced James McAvoy starrer “Filth,” which took in $8.3 million worldwide; “Kill Your Friends,” to be released in September in the U.K.; and upcoming actioner “SAS: Red Notice,” a co-production with U.K. outfit Vertigo Films, which Lionsgate U.K. will bow in Blighty next year.

Clarke says the company has a production slate of 12 pictures across a number of genres, which includes a project from “The Woman in Black” director James Watkins in addition to a biopic about Mahatma Gandhi penned by Nicholas Martin, who wrote Stephen Frears’ “Florence Foster Jenkins.”

Eager to exploit the family market, Altitude has formalized a deal with quirky U.K. children’s publishing company Chicken House, the imprint behind the “Big Game,” by Dan Smith. “After our success with (that), we were anxious to build another property together,” Clarke says.

The relationship means that Altitude will have a steady stream of content that it can access early in the development process, Clarke notes. The first project from the deal is “Moondust,” an action-adventure love story set on the moon, penned by debut author Gemma Fowler.

While the shingle is also bringing Russian ballet docu “Bolshoi Babylon” and sci-fi pic “Proxima” to Cannes, and will unveil a promo reel of Charles Barker sci-fi pic “The Call Up” at the fest, Clarke is bullish as well about Altitude’s nascent position as a distributor.

“We got into distribution a little earlier than we thought, because we saw an opening in the marketplace,” he says. “We’ll be looking to acquire quite aggressively this year.”

Clarke calls the distribution environment in the U.K. “robust,” but says Altitude is looking to get to the next level, across all of its arms.

“We’ve proved the model,” he says, “and now it’s time to build off of that.”

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