HIGH POINTS: The new company opened at midyear as a distributor with “Posse,” its biggest film of the year. “The opening of that film not only helped to establish the company, but it gave us exhibitor awareness,” said Gramercy prez Russell Schwartz.
LOW POINTS: While the company had a number of critically acclaimed pix, only “Posse” scored at the B.O. Both “Dazed & Confused” and “King of the Hill” were critics’ pix but lost ground at the B.O., as did “A Dangerous Woman.” If Debra Winger picks up a nomination or award at the Oscars for her work in “Woman,” it may give the film extra life.
THE GRAMERCY PHILOSOPHY: Somewhat of an anomaly in the industry, Gramercy is a marketing and distribution venture that also has the wherewithal to produce a handful of its own pix.
“Polygram and Universal both finance our overhead, and either partner distributes films through us, with much dialogue on our part,” Schwartz said. “I’d like to say the relationship is that of friendly adversaries.”
Gramercy aims to put out films in the $ 6 million-$ 10 million range, with Gramercy folks in on every pic from the early script stages, even if the film is beingmade by Universal or Polygram. “We have a strong influence on what films we distribute,” Schwartz said.
Gramercy either gets a negative pickup from Universal — in which U takes the ancillary rights and Gramercy takes the theatrical — or from Polygram, in which films are produced and developed through Gramercy. Schwartz says he is intent on finding the filmmakers and stars with whom Gramercy can develop relationships for the future.
Gramercy gets a lot of support from Universal — everything from use of computers to hooking its trailers to U’s releases — and yet it competes with U for exhibition space. “It’s worked very well,” Schwartz said. “Our main thing was to hit the ground running and make the exhibitors believe we have product that will work for them. So far, they’ve been playing ball.”
HIGH POINTS: Nine Oscar nominations for “Howards End,” best foreign-language film Academy Award for “Indochine” and a cumulative box office gross of $ 23 million in its first year.
Tom Bernard, who left Orion Classics along with Michael Barker and Marcie Bloom to top Sony Pictures Classics, said, “I don’t think many can point to that much at the box office in their first year as a start-up. To leave Orion, walk across the street, put out a shingle and release 13 movies in a year is something we’re very proud of. We also proved that you can have specialized distribution and do (studio-level business) with ‘Howards End.’ ”
LOW POINTS: Critics were mixed on “Orlando.””We thought it would get great reviews,” said Bernard, adding that critics were favorable in New York and Los Angeles but cold and clammy in the middle of the country.
LOOKING FORWARD: SPC has high hopes for “Belle Epoque” and “Germinal,” which opened Dec. 13 with positive reviews during a Los Angeles Oscar qualification run. The pair could score as two of the top-grossing international pix of the year. “Pure Formality” will test the star power of Gerard Depardieu and Roman Polanski (as an actor).
COMPETITIVE APPROACH: In an era when prices for specialized films continue to escalate, SPC plans to toe the line and rely on filmmaker relationships and marketing and distribution strategies to fill the pipeline.
“We’re not going to change acquisitions style or distribution style to compete with someone for the sake of competition,” said Bernard. “There have been many companies that have come and gone, and we’ve always stayed on course.”