Otter Media, the digital-video joint venture of Chernin Group and AT&T, has taken a minority equity stake in Supergravity Pictures and also cut a co-production deal with the fledgling studio for future film projects.
Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Supergravity plans to use the capital investment for new hires and to invest in new film projects. Previous investors in Supergravity, launched in November 2014, include Van Toffler, former president of MTV and the Viacom Media Networks Music & Logo Group, and Silicon Valley entrepreneur-investor Larry Braitman.
“We want to invest in and support innovative companies that focus on this massive opportunity, particularly those that use digital platforms and social media to more efficiently market and distribute their content,” Chernin Group president Jesse Jacobs said. “Supergravity, as a direct-to-consumer film studio, is a prime example of a company with these attributes, and we are excited to be partnering with them.”
In May, Supergravity released buddy comedy “Man Up,” starring Justin Chon and Kevin Wu, in partnership with Lakeshore Entertainment; the feature is currently available on Vimeo and Netflix. The studio is premiering its second film, horror movie “The Chosen,” featuring YouTube star Kian Lawley, at VidCon 2015 on Friday. Both films are part of an exclusive four-movie distribution deal with Vimeo.
“This investment gives us the capital to execute our vision of building a movie studio that produces, markets and sells high-quality films directly to the passionate audiences that desire them,” said Supergravity co-founder Max Benator.
Movies featuring YouTube and other digital stars is a burgeoning trend, with at least a dozen such projects already released or set to launch in 2015. One of the highest-profile is “Smosh: The Movie,” featuring the YouTube-famous comedy duo of Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, which premiered Wednesday at an event pegged to VidCon.
Supergravity was formed by Benator — who also is manager and producing partner for YouTube’s Fine Bros. — and Marc Hustvedt, co‐founder of online-video trade publication Tubefilter. Hustvedt produced feature film “Camp Takota,” starring top YouTubers Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart and Mamrie Hart, which kicked off the current spate of digital starrers.
AT&T and Chernin Group formed Otter Media in April 2014, pooling some $500 million to acquire, invest in and launch over-the-top video services. The JV’s portfolio includes a controlling stake in multichannel network company Fullscreen and its Rooster Teeth content studio, and Crunchyroll, an online subscription video-on-demand service specializing in Japanese anime and Korean content.