×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

With FilmDistrict’s DNA, Will Focus Get a Commercial Makeover?

Some of the indie distrib's 45 staffers will be laid off

As Focus Features absorbs both the indie distrib FilmDistrict and its founder Peter Schlessel by January, Focus will be able to move into making the kind of movies that FilmDistrict has become known for: titles with clear commercial appeal that sometimes retain an indie sensibility.

While Focus has sometimes struggled with films that didn’t crossover from arthouses, FilmDistrict has made a specialty of releasing low-to-medium budget actioners that often saw solid returns, sometimes with prestige elements such as Spike Lee’s upcoming Korean remake “Oldboy.”

With FilmDistrict founder and CEO Peter Schlessel becoming CEO of Focus Films and Focus topper James Schamus ankling,  FilmDistrict will disappear early next year. Focus Features will take over operations of the three-year-old indie distrib.

FilmDistrict’s Top-Grossing Films (PHOTOS)

Some of the 45 Santa Monica-based FilmDistrict staffers will be let go, while the rest move over to Focus. The company’s absorption into Focus is a blow for the indie community, which looked to FilmDistrict as a valuable alternative to small specialty distribs and blockbuster-focused studios.

Schlessel will become the CEO of Focus in January, reporting to Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley. FilmDistrict titles set for release after January will be absorbed into Focus; the filmDistrict brand will then live on solely in library titles.

FilmDistrict has seen success this year with “Olympus Has Fallen” grossing $98 million domestically and “Insidious Chapter 2” with nearly $70 million. Before it vanishes, FilmDistrict will handle Spike Lee’s “Oldboy,” opening Nov. 27, and romcom “That Awkward Moment,” set for Jan. 31.

FilmDistrict was founded in September, 2010, by Schlessel in partnership with Graham King and Timothy Headington’s GK Films with a focus on midrange pictures. Its first titles — “Insidious” and “Soul Surfer” — were released in April, 2011, and performed well with combined $95 million domestic gross.

During its three years of operations, Schlessel forged several partnerships to release FilmDistrict titles, partnering with TriStar on “Soul Surfer” and “Looper” and with Open Road on “Lockout” and “Red Dawn.”

FilmDistrict’s first distribution chief Bob Berney departed in November, 2011. Schlessel subsequently hired DreamWorks exec Christine Birch as marketing chief and James Orr, who had worked at MGM and Paramount, as head of distribution.

Other FilmDistrict titles included “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” “Drive,” “The Rum Diary,” “Evil Dead,” Safety Not Guaranteed” and “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” Upcoming titles include “Pompeii,” which TriStar will release in Feb. 21, and Elizabeth Banks comedy “Walk of Shame,” due out in March; and “Selfless,” starring Ryan Reynolds on Sept. 26.

FilmDistrict had acquired U.S. distribution rights to Mike Flanagan’s horror-thriller “Oculus” at Cannes last year but producers backed away from that pact just before the Toronto Film Festival due to a proviso recalling for a wide release. With the project’s U.S. rights for sale again, Relativity then bought “Oculus” following its premiere in Toronto’s Midnight Madness section.

As for Focus, it made a major splash at Toronto with its $7 million purchase of worldwide rights to Jason Bateman’s spelling-bee comedy “Bad Words” in his feature directorial debut. Produced by Bateman’s 18-month-old Aggregate Films with Darko and MXN Entertainment, Bateman stars with Allison Janney, Phillip Baker Hall, Kathryn Hahn and Rohan Chand.

SEE ALSO: Toronto: Jason Bateman’s ‘Bad Words’ Acquired By Focus Features

 

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Benedict Andrews (L) and US actress

    Kristen Stewart on the 'Insane Gall' of Directors as 'Seberg' Arrives in San Sebastian

    SAN SEBASTIAN – On Friday, Kristen Stewart and Benedict Andrews’ political thriller “Seberg” plays at the 67th San Sebastian Film Festival, where it opens Perlak, a section dedicated to the Spanish premieres of major international films. The star and her director addressed the media prior to the screening in the festival’s first high-profile press conference, [...]

  • Les Miserables

    Ladj Ly's Cannes Prize-Winner 'Les Miserables' Is France's Oscar Submission

    Ladj Ly’s politically charged drama “Les Miserables,” which won the Jury Prize at Cannes, has been chosen by France’s Oscar committee to enter the international feature film race. In one of the most competitive years for French movies, “Les Miserables” beat out Celine Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” the 18th-century-set romance which won [...]

  • David Kehrl neuer Head of Acquisitions

    'Resident Evil's' Constantin Names Acquisitions, International Co-Production Chief

    David Kehrl is to join Constantin Film, Germany’s leading independent movie producer and distributor, as the head of acquisitions and international co-production. He will report to Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the executive board at Constantin Film, which produces the “Resident Evil” movies. Starting in February, Kehrl will be responsible for the acquisition of international theatrical [...]

  • The Plague Season 2 Spanish TV

    Telefonica, Atresmedia to Create Content Factory Behemoth

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — In a game-changing move for Spanish-language production Telefonica, Europe’s third biggest telco, and Atresmedia, the original co-creators of “La Casa de Papel,” are uniting to create a new joint contents production giant. Aimed at gaining more scale and uniting talent relations – writers, directors and producers – the 50/50 joint venture will [...]

  • KKR-Backed German Media Conglomerate Finally Has

    KKR-Backed German Media Conglomerate Finally Has a Name: Leonine

    The KKR-backed German media company formed through the merger of Tele München Group, Universum Film, i&u TV, and Wiedemann & Berg Film finally has a name: Leonine. The company revealed its moniker Friday, saying that “Leonine” met its criteria of being associated with its home region of Bavaria and Munich, in southern Germany, and of [...]

  • Scattered Night

    San Sebastian New Directors Jihyoung Lee and Kim Sol Talk ‘Scattered Night’

    After taking the Korean Competition Grand Prize and the best acting award (Moon Seung-a) at the Jeonju Intl. Film Festival, “Scattered Night” now heads to San Sebastian’s New Directors selection. An intimate portrayal of a family whose members are deeply isolated from one another, the film follows two parents overwhelmed by their responsibilities, their own [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content