What a difference a year makes. David Glasser shocked industry watchers last summer when he resigned as COO/president of The Weinstein Co., only to reverse course within a few weeks and re-up with the indie studio through 2018. Following his famous 180, Glasser is re-emerging at The 360 View, AFM’s Nov. 4 global film financing panel. He talked with Variety about the industry, his new feature slate, and the future of Weinstein Television and his day-and-date label, Radius-TWC.
Where do you see indie film financing heading in the next few years?
There’s always going to be a market for films to get financed independently, [but] I think the output of arthouse movies will come down. The little ones we used to grind out [that made] $15, $20, $25 million are finding it harder to survive when there is incredible product coming from Netflix, Amazon and HBO. It limits the amount of movies that we’re going to do per year.
What are the biggest emerging trends you see?
The TV business is skyrocketing now — you’ve seen our deals with Jay Z and Antoine Fuqua, our “Waco” and “Time: The Kalief Browder Story” series with Spike TV, our Matthew Weiner series with Amazon. Obviously you have to keep your eye on China — we had our first big partnership with Wanda on “Southpaw,” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” with China Film Group Corp., which did [$38 million] in China. And the European marketplace is strong for partnerships and co-productions — we’ve made around 50% of our [recent] films in Great Britain and France, from “The King’s Speech” to “The Imitation Game” to “Woman in Gold” to “Lion.”
How have your feature budgets been affected by the marketplace?
They haven’t been, because we’re very cost-efficient. Some of our movies cost $9, $12, $14, $15 million. Our sweet spot is $20 million — that’s the magic number. Harvey [Weinstein], Bob [Weinstein] and I are very disciplined when it comes to budgets.
In May, you talked about hiring two investment banks [Moelis & Co. and ACF Investment Bank] to find strategic investors who could possibly buy a stake in your TV division. Any update?
What I can tell you is that there are bidders at the table and we’re in the middle of it right now.
Radius-TWC has been in a holding pattern since Tom Quinn and Jason Janego left in 2015…
You’ll see a complete reboot of that this year, something spectacular. I think we had 26 releases, and 80%-85% percent of them were profitable. We didn’t want to rush to hire someone, but [instead] to rethink how to take it to the next level.
What do you plan to do differently?
The type of product we’re doing — that’s changing. We were able to study all the movies and geographic data over the last few years — who watched what, when and how they were watching — to see what [compels] people to stay home on a Friday or Saturday night.
The big struggle with day-and-date is getting people to know about your films when there’s such a massive amount of product out there.
Look at the success we had — we had films like “Bachelorette” that made $10, $12, $14 million with moderate P&A – because we’re great at publicity, and it’s about utilizing the machine that we have to cut through the noise.
You’ve long been at the forefront of making films based on an awards strategy. Is that changing at all now?
It’s staying exactly the same, because we believe awards are [the result of] the high quality product that we make. It’s funny — last year we got [nine] Oscar nominations and people were like, “Oh, have they lost their touch?” People hope to get one nomination. If we don’t have good product, then, sure, we’re going to have an off year. [But] we’re not going to rush ourselves to make a film or get something out just so we can keep meeting a quota.
What are some of the big features you’ll be selling at AFM this year?
On the Weinstein side, were going to have “The Current War,” which now has the whole cast [including] Michael Shannon and Benedict Cumberbatch. On the Bob Weinstein/Dimension side, [we’ve had] a spectacular presentation on what the next year-and-a-half to two years of his slate looks like, with Mark Wahlberg, the star of “The Six Billion Dollar Man,” our “Murder Mystery” director Anne Fletcher, the team and some of the talent from “Furby,” “Polaroid” and [the Robert De Niro-toplined comedy] “The War with Grandpa.”
Around the time you had layoffs a year ago, you said you wanted to make this a “tighter, smarter, nimbler” business. How have you worked to achieve that goal?
We’ve built an extremely lucrative TV company, we’ve tightened the belt on the movie side and focused on mid-level projects like “The Imitation Game” and “Lion,” we’re rebooting the Radius label, and we’re doing all of that with 50 less people. That’s a smart business to me, and people have risen to the occasion – either promotions have been given internally or new people have come in. All these articles have been written about us [that say] “Oh, they didn’t hire that big name.” Well, you know what? We didn’t need them, because someone who’s been here for eight years who’s been working their butt off has stepped up to the plate and is doing a phenomenal job.
The best thing at our company is to show up at the office at 9:30 at night. You can feel the energy when a movie is opening, when there’s an Oscar campaign, when a TV show is being sold. It’s been like a war room in the last few weeks in the TV department, with everyone closing the Matthew Weiner and Waco projects at the same time. You go down the hall to production, and the movie company has got “The Current War” and “The Intouchables” going. We’re very much in the vein of a Silicon Valley company, where anyone can have a great idea and bring it to the table.