A year ago, attendees at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival were stunned when a new player in their midst — Broad Green Pictures — grabbed everyone’s attention by paying $3 million for U.S. rights to the Andrew Garfield-Michael Shannon drama “99 Homes,” directed by Ramin Bahrani.
“We had seven people and zero distribution,” recalls Broad Green CEO Gabriel Hammond. “We got on the phone with Ramin and spelled out why we were so passionate about his film and what we were going to do.”
With Hammond and his brother Daniel, the chief creative officer, Broad Green has bolstered its slate to a dozen films and staffed up to 88 since then with hires such as Travis Reid to head distribution, Adam Keen in publicity, Marc Danon in acquisitions and Dylan Wiley in specialty releasing, and it will open new offices in Hollywood in November.
Broad Green is riding high on the Robert Redford-Nick Nolte starrer “A Walk in the Woods,” above, which was released Sept. 2 and has grossed a strong $12 million-plus. “That was a great acquisition to make at Sundance,” Daniel says. “We’re out to buy films that we love — movies that matter.”
“It’s incredibly exciting to be growing this company,” Gabriel says. “I can’t believe that it’s time for Toronto again.”
The brothers have ample resources. Gabriel, now 36, founded Alerian Capital in 2004 as a financial services company. Daniel came to work at Alerian, where the operations were spun off as SteelPath and sold to OppenheimerFunds in 2012. The brothers still control Alerian, which has more than $20 billion in assets under management, with the day-to-day operations overseen by Kenny Feng.
In the meantime, the siblings began talking about getting into the film business, a lifelong passion for both of them. “I watched ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ religiously, and I still can’t believe how entertaining ‘Black Swan’ is,” Daniel says.
“You need experience building a business, which we have,” Gabriel says.
Their first move came in early 2013 when — after reading dozens of scripts — they financed and produced Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley’s “Learning to Drive,” which was released on four screens on Aug. 21. “Drive” has expanded to 70 locations and has grossed $739,492 as of Sept. 7.
Since then, they’ve assembled a slate of adult-themed dramas including New Zealand pic “Dark Horse,” “Infiltrator” and a trio of Terrence Malick projects — “Knight of Cups,” “Voyage of Time” and his untitled project starring Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara and Michael Fassbender.
Getting into business with filmmakers such as Malick sends a signal, the brothers believe, that Broad Green wants to release movies in collaboration with filmmakers. At the same time, Broad Green — named for the street of their childhood home in Potomac, Md. — wants to stay independent, Gabriel notes.
Broad Green also launched a major expansion in February by acquiring a 45% stake in Mister Smith Entertainment, David Garrett’s 3-year-old licensing and distribution operation. The idea is to maximize the foreign distribution of its internally developed film slate of both forthcoming wide releases and awards-oriented specialty platform releases.
“They are not looking to do business in the conventional way,” Garrett says. “It’s very smart of them to realize that they need a strong international component. It makes us into a one-stop shop for independent projects.”
Two months after the Mister Smith deal was announced, Broad Green came onboard “Buena Vista Social Club — Adios,” a sequel to Wim Wenders’ 2000 documentary about Cuban music. Broad Green is financing the project with Lucy Walker (“Waste Land”) directing; Mister Smith sold out international markets at the Cannes Film Festival.
In early July, the partnership saw its second project come to fruition as Broad Green agreed to produce and finance “Brain on Fire,” starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Jenny Slate and Thomas Mann.
A few weeks later, Broad Green launched development on “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” with Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term 12”) to direct Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”) in the story of a civil-rights defense attorney who fights to free a death row prisoner.
Although the focus so far has been on prestige pics, the siblings are looking to finance sci-fi, horror, thrillers and comedies with budgets going all the way to $100 million. “We’re genre agnostic,” Daniel explains.
The siblings say they’ve put aside most of their hobbies for now with 80-hour work weeks. “I have not touched my guitar since we moved here,” Gabriel notes. “What we’re doing is exhausting but so exhilarating.”