You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tribeca: Decade of expansion

Fest extends brand into plethora of sectors

“Change or die.”

That may be the expression that best reflects the Tribeca network of institutions and the shifting landscape that encompasses it.

“Isn’t that the expression,” ponders Jane Rosenthal, who co-founded Tribeca Prods. 23 years ago, the Tribeca Film Festival a decade ago, and, more recently, an entire group of related organizations, including a festival in Qatar and a U.S. distribution arm. “We have tried to consistently evolve and develop new initiatives to serve our filmmakers and our audiences.”

Rosenthal’s interest in constantly evolving the Tribeca brand dates back to her earliest years in the business, when she moved to New York and launched Tribeca Prods. with Robert De Niro.

“While I was waiting for L.A. to wake up, we built the Tribeca Film Center and did lots of other things,” she says, including the launch of a restaurant, the Tribeca Grill, and a screening series for independent films called First Look. “It was always very much about community.”

While the Tribeca festival was erected in 2001 to bring New Yorkers together in the wake of 9/11, Tribeca’s newest endeavors, such as its distribution entity, Tribeca Film, are more aimed at the changing needs of the filmmaking and filmgoing communities.

“We looked at the way the business is changing so radically, and we thought what can we do, as a company, to personalize, customize and develop new platforms, create new opportunities for producers and try to take advantage of the chaos that’s going on in the industry,” she says.

Tribeca’s distribution outfit launched just last year with the release of 10 films on VOD, some of which were shown in limited theatrical release. The unit is ramping up significantly in year two, more than doubling its output to 26 films, many of which are going out more aggressively in theaters.”

“None of us have distribution backgrounds,” admits Nancy Schafer, exec director of the film festival and senior VP of Tribeca Enterprises, “but we’ve all been studying it for a long time.”

The company has recruited an estimable team, however, to help broaden the reach of the Tribeca brand, including former Sundance head Geoffrey Gilmore as chief creative officer; IFC Films veteran Todd Green as distribution VP and general manager; ex-Revolver buyer Nick Savva as acquisitions director; and distribution vet Mark Urman, whose Paladin acts as a theatrical releasing partner.

Gilmore says Tribeca is looking to be identified with a broad spectrum of films that embodies their “curatorial vision,” from mainstream movies (“Last Night,” “The Bang Bang Club”) and genre films (“Grave Encounters”) to art films (“Neds,” “Essential Killing”) and sports-related content, with partner ESPN. “It’s eclectic, but we’re very concerned with the quality of the work,” he says.

While the first slate of films made only a minor dent in the marketplace, Schafer says cable operators were satisfied with the numbers. “We had some good markers of success,” she adds, citing a three-year video output deal with New Video. According to Rosenthal and Schafer, the company’s VOD buys extended beyond Gotham, where the Tribeca brand is obviously most familiar, also performing in rural areas.

Tribeca may be entering an extremely competitive field, particularly the increasingly crowded VOD space, but it benefits from major support by American Express, which not only backs the film festival, but also lends its marketing oomph to Tribeca Film releasing across all of its platforms.

If Tribeca Film may not yet have the reach of an IFC Films or Magnolia Pictures — two distributors that Rosenthal references for their similar willingness to experiment — its marketing savvy gives the company a leg-up. (It’s hard to beat those witty ads with De Niro and Martin Scorsese.)

Paradigm’s Ben Weiss, who sold U.S. rights of the indie pic “Beware the Gonzo” to Tribeca Film last year, says the company’s “marketing and sponsorship opportunities were very attractive to us and ultimately swayed us to sign with them.”

While many in the business say it’s too early to judge Tribeca’s distribution efforts, they are being carefully watched as a viable fledgling player. “They’re trying to be competitive,” says Submarine Entertainment’s Josh Braun. “They’re not necessarily going to the higher range of bigger distributors, but they’re actually putting up decent numbers.”

But with so much going on under the Tribeca umbrella — it also has a private screening space for rental; Tribeca Cinemas; an investment in Tribeca Flashpoint, a digital media arts school in Chicago, among other educational initiatives; and then there’s the completely separate nonprofit Tribeca Institute — Schafer says, “There’s a risk of diluting the brand, and we worry about it.”

But not too much.

“We haven’t really sought a comfort zone,” says Rosenthal. “Have we tried to experiment and evolve? Absolutely. That’s part of any new business.”

More on Tribeca Film Festival at 10:
Decade of expansion | Tribeca entries hail from all over the map | Labors of lab | Tribeca: A look back | Preems, panels & pow wows | Schedule & events | Hot titles
Full coverage of the Tribeca Film Festal

More Scene

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Mick Jagger

    Mick Jagger Makes First Post-Surgery Appearance at Rolling Stones Ballet Premiere

    Rock legend Mick Jagger made his first public appearance post-heart surgery on Thursday night to catch a glimpse of the world premiere of the Rolling Stones ballet “Porte Rouge.” “I hope you are going to enjoy this wonderful new ballet, and, of course, the music,” the frontman declared in a pre-recorded message to the audience [...]

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

  • Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg, Arianna

    Katy Perry and Anita Hill Honored at the DVF Awards

    Katy Perry was among the honorees at the 10th Annual DVF Awards on Thursday night. The singer was recognized for her advocacy work with both UNICEF and the LGBTQ community. “Music has opened the doors for so many opportunities for me,” she said while accepting the inspiration award. “The ability to meet people and champion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content