Is the Sky Falling for Independents? Film Execs Say Not Yet

Courtesy of Broad Green Pictures

A trio of newbie distribution outfits — Bleecker Street, Broad Green Pictures and Saban Films — remain upbeat amid the profound changes percolating through Hollywood.

Execs with each, plus “Sicario” producer Molly Smith, appeared Saturday at the Produced By conference at the Sony lot on the panel alarmingly titled “Is the Sky Falling? The Challenges and Opportunities Facing Independent Film Producers.”

“I don’t think the sky is falling,” said Bleecker Streets’s Andrew Karpen. “There’s clearly a market for over-35 audiences in  theatrical releases.”

Bleecker Street’s successes so far include “Eye in the Sky” with $18 million, “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “Trumbo” — the latter two with over $7 million each, despite limited theatrical release. Karpen noted that it’s crucial to not overreach with more screens than needed, and to recognize where the audience is going to be.

“If we can’t determine who that core audience is, we’re probably not going to get involved,” he added.

Daniel Hammond, chief operating officer for Broad Green, noted that the new studio decided that “A Walk in the Woods” had enough broad appeal to merit a wide release of nearly 2,000 screens, taking in nearly $30 million — despite mixed reviews.

“On a wide release, reviews are less important,” a bemused Hammond noted.

He added that Broad Green sees a focus on wide release as the sensible approach, underlined by making “Straight Outta Compton” producer Matt Alvarez its president of production as the majors focus most of their resources on tentpoles and franchises.

“We’re pushing in-house development,” he added. “We’re strongest in wide release.”

Smith said a similar approach worked with drug war drama “Sicario,” financed by her Black Label Media which found plenty of traction and wound up grossing $46 million domestically via Lionsgate. “You have be nimble today, disciplined and conservative,” she noted.

Jonathan Saba of Saban Films noted that his label has often opted to go the VOD route rather than theatrical. Saban released 2014’s “The Homesman,” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank, and generated $2.4 million theatrically, a move it will make perhaps once a year.

“We’re agnostic to the medium of distribution,” Saba said. “We have not lost money on a film yet.”

The hour-long panel, moderated by Landmark Theater’s Ted Mundorff, lacked any bashing of the new giant players Amazon and Netflix. ‘For an independent producer, Amazon and Netflix are great partners,” Hammond said.

Broad Green signed a TV output deal in April with Amazon Prime.


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  1. harry georgatos says:

    This is great news, the destruction of indie and art house cinema that panders to the pretentious.
    Hollywood should concentrate on blockbuster genre films from action. sci-fi, globetrotting spy films, Horror films and an endless abundance of graphic novels movies thank-you very much No more independent movies that want to convince me to particular line of thinking. More and more sophisticated genre entertainment then some serious art-house understanding of the human conscience that I can definitely do without! The blockbusters have arrived and nothing can stand in it’s way!

    • Harry Georgatos is a Tool! says:

      Clearly, you didn’t read the article. Indie films are not dying fool (not by any means). It’s also clear you truly don’t understand indie films at all & what they are about in the overall field. Not all indie films are “pretentious” by any means. Actually, the majority are not let alone they range in all genres. Your statement is highly misguided on numerous levels, what you say about indie films is like someone saying “blockbuster” films are brainless garbage (which many are). Funny thing is…many of the genres you mentioned like (action, sci-fi, horror, & etc.) many those genres best films come through the indies from filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, PT Anderson, the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen, Stephen Frears, John Carpenter, & that’s just naming a few filmmakers who had go independent to get particular films made. Luckily, you don’t run the industry (there wouldn’t be one) since you left out highly popular genres like drama, comedy, crime, mystery, & such. You are a real tool.

  2. oneopinion says:

    Would be nice to see an detailed report on VOD receipts. What did the films cost to produce. What did they generate. what genres have the most receptive audience etc.

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