You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rysher calls ‘Cut!’

Firm exits film biz to focus on television

After three prolific but unprofitable years in the feature film business, Rysher Entertainment is calling it quits.

The company, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, announced plans Tuesday to focus exclusively on the expansion of its TV operations while phasing out all of its theatrical production activities.

The move will result in the elimination of about 40 full-time positions, mainly among feature production and marketing executives and support staff.

Employees were greeted Tuesday morning by memos inviting them to a 10 a.m. meeting at which president and CEO Tim Helfet announced the layoffs “with little ceremony,” according to one source.

In explaining the decision, Helfet said that Rysher had lost money on its theatrical product. “The performance of our film slate is not news. The fact of the matter is, with few exceptions, we just haven’t been able to produce films that found an audience.”

Rysher never managed to score a major box office hit. The company probably suffered its biggest losses on the MGM/UA distributed “Turbulence.” The picture, which cost nearly $60 million to produce, grossed only $11.5 million in the U.S. (see chart).

Helfet would not discuss how much money Rysher’s film endeavors have cost its privately held parent company. However, informed sources put the amount in the “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Cox execs could not be reached for comment.

The decision to get out of the film business comes just a month after founder and former CEO Keith Samples exited the six-year old company (Daily Variety, June 1).

Rysher will continue to operate its international film distribution arm at least until year’s end. However, Meggan Kimberly, senior VP, international, is ankling the company.

Joe Drake, senior VP, international theatrical sales, will handle remaining sales on current and upcoming projects. Television distribution will be overseen by Cathie Trotta, VP of international TV sales.

Rysher also will cease its aggressive co-financing activities, which had enjoyed a somewhat higher success rate than the company’s own productions. Rysher put up portion of the budgets on a number of Paramount films including “Primal Fear,” “Escape from L.A.,” “The Saint,” “Dear God,” “Private Parts” and “Kiss the Girls.”

“I don’t think the business of just co-financing films is a business for us to be in,” said Helfet. “We want to focus on a business where we can add value with or without partners.”

That business, said Helfet, is television.

Indeed, Rysher has achieved some measure of success in a relatively short time in producing and distributing programming for network, cable and syndication.

The company has nine series on the fall schedule, including “Nash Bridges” and “Dellaventura” on CBS; “Oz” on HBO; “USA High” on USA; and “Soldier of Fortune,” “FX: The Series,” “Strange Universe,” “Highlander: The Series” and “Comedy Showcase” in syndication.

The Rysher logo will not disappear from the bigscreen immediately. Two completed features, “A Smile Like Yours,” directed by Rysher founder Samples, and “Going West,” starring Dennis Quaid and Danny Glover, will be distributed under an existing agreement with Paramount Pictures.

Rysher also co-financed Par’s upcoming “Kiss the Girls,” starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd.

Meanwhile, the horror film, “18th Angel,” now completed, has no U.S. distributor. Production is under way on Rysher’s “The Opposite of Sex,” directed by Don Roos and starring Lisa Kudrow and Martin Donovan. Helfet said the company is in discussions with several distributors for U.S. rights to the picture.

Rysher hopes to find a home for several development projects, including director Robert Harling’s “Homemade Sin” and Glen and Les Charles’ script “The Lady Takes an Ace.”

Rysher was formed in 1991 when Samples, a former Warner Bros. syndication salesman, secured the rights to rep off-network distribution for NBC’s Saturday-morning show “Saved by the Bell.”

Cox bought the company in 1993 for a little under $15 million, of which $9 million went to pay off accumulated debt.

Rysher announced its entry into the movie business at the MIFED film market in October 1994.

Samples is currently involved in the financing of MTV Films and Paramount’s low-budget feature “Election.”

More Film

  • John Wick: Chapter 3

    Box Office: 'John Wick 3' Knocks Down 'Avengers: Endgame' With $57 Million Debut

    Earth’s Mightiest Heroes put up a good fight, but John Wick put at end to the three-week box office reign of “Avengers: Endgame.” Propelled by positive reviews, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” beat expectations with a debut of $57 million from 3,850 North American locations. That was enough to nab the box office crown [...]

  • Game of Thrones Cast

    What's Next for 'Game of Thrones'' Cast Members

    Eight years and eight seasons later, the “Game of Thrones” cast finally has some downtime to relax or move onto other projects. Some stars, like Kit Harington, who told Variety that he doesn’t plan on taking another role as physically demanding as Jon Snow, certainly deserve a break, but others have wasted no time getting back on [...]

  • MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r)

    Submissions Now Welcome for Third 'Meet the Press' Film Festival

    Chuck Todd’s quest to bring “Meet the Press” to the movies continues. The third annual Meet the Press Film Festival, held in collaboration with the American Film Institute, will take place on October 6 and 7 in Washington, D.C., and remains a haven for issue-focused documentary shorts. Todd believes the event serves a critical mission: [...]

  • Challenges Still Keep Content From Traveling

    Cannes: Challenges Still Keep Content From Traveling to and From China

    Challenges still remain when it comes to buying, distributing and producing content that can travel between China and the West, attendees of a panel organized by the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival on the sidelines of Cannes said. Cai Gongming, president of Road Pictures, has hit box office gold in China with Cannes art-house titles such [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    Cannes Film Review: Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in 'The Lighthouse'

    “The Lighthouse,” the second feature directed by Robert Eggers (“The Witch”), is a gripping and turbulent drama that draws on a number of influences, though it merges them into its own fluky gothic historical ominoso art-thriller thing. Set in the 1890s, and suffused with foghorns and epic gusts of wind, as well as a powerfully [...]

  • Cannes: Diao Yinan Explains His Artistic

    Diao Yinan on Cannes Pic 'Wild Goose Lake': 'I Try to Portray the Opposite of a Utopia'

    In competition in Cannes with “Wild Goose Lake,” director Diao Yinan explained Sunday why he’s fascinated by dark crime thrillers – and why his new film features dialogue in China’s Wuhan dialect. “Such thrillers are not only an exercise in style; they’re also full of dramatic tension, and when you combine style with dramatic tension, [...]


    Cannes: Robert Pattinson, Shailene Woodley Attend Starry Vanity Fair Party

    It’s true what they say about Batman being a loner. On Saturday night, Robert Pattinson made his first public appearance since being cast as the new Dark Knight at this year’s Vanity Fair Party at the Cannes Film Festival. But while all the other A-list guests mingled and worked the crowd at the restaurant of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content