It’s been yet another tough year at the box office for documentaries, and for a few of this season’s high-profile releases the demise of specialty arms and ThinkFilm’s dramatic slowdown made the year that much more challenging.
Three such films are Think’s “Encounters at the End of the World,” directed by Werner Herzog, and Marina Zenovich’s “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” as well as Paramount Vantage’s “American Teen,” helmed by Nanette Burstein.
Each director is hoping their doc will be recognized at the various award season kudofests, including the Intl. Docu Assn.’s IDAs, the Los Angeles and New York critics’ galas, Film Independent’s Spirit Awards and the Oscars. But with the films’ theatrical distribs in disarray, it remains to be seen who will take the reigns if an award season campaign is necessary.
“There are corporations far richer than ThinkFilm ever was that are in a position to support these films,” ThinkFilm’s Mark Urman told Variety during his last day as president of the company (he became prexy of newly formed distrib Senator Entertainment U.S.).
Those entities include HBO, which released “Polanski” in June, and the pic’s DVD distrib, Image Entertainment, which is also working on the DVD release of “Encounters.”
Urman insists the remaining Think team will continue to work in conjunction with both Image and HBO. A spokesperson for the net says it has “yet to be determined” how they will handle a “Polanski” campaign.
Although former Paramount Vantage staff refuse to comment on any potential award-promotion plans for “Teen,” Burstein is hopeful the studio will put in the same amount of effort it did for the film’s July release.
“(Par Vantage’s) collapsing into Paramount happened before (“Teen’s”) release, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out, but honestly there wasn’t a huge difference,” Burstein says. “They may have been more fiscally conservative but as far as their efforts in getting PR for the film, that didn’t change. And, so far, they seem to be enthusiastic about winning awards for the film.”
Although Burstein and Zenovich consider Think’s travails and the shuttering of studio specialty divisions unfortunate for the doc community, Urman says it might be just what the market needs.
“If Think were still functioning at the pace it used to, we would have probably gone on a doc diet,” Urman says. “The marketplace is not what it was a few years ago, yet there are still too many docs being theatrically released. So one good thing that could be said about what is happening right now is that it will do its bit to reduce the glut.”