Joe and Anthony Russo want to capitalize on the disruption in the movie business.
The brothers behind the “Avengers” films, who recently entered into a sprawling co-financing and distribution deal with Fox for their fledgling production company, say they’re already developing projects that will, in Joe Russo’s words, span “little movies, big movies, hard R, edgy films, arty films and big giant tentpole movies.” These pictures could be released by the studio’s various divisions, with smaller films getting fielded by Fox Searchlight and larger ones coming out under the 20th Century Fox banner.
“The business is changing faster than it’s ever changed,” says Joe Russo. “Films used to be an event that required work and effort to get to a theater to see. Now really good content is available immediately to us on many devices. At the same time, the audience’s appetite for storytelling is evolving, and people want to spend time with characters for many years. The success of the Marvel universe and ‘Game of Thrones’ reflects that.”
The idea behind the Russos’ new venture is that it will function as an artist collective. The brothers are hoping to sign deals with various filmmakers to come in and develop projects, and serve as a writers’ room of sorts. In addition to working in different genres and budget ranges, the Russos are open to experimenting with how a story is told — raising the possibility of unspooling a narrative over several installments that are released in quick succession.
Although rival studios had hoped to land the brothers, they opted to go with Fox because they’ve known film chief Stacey Snider for years. She worked with the duo on their 2006 comedy “You, Me and Dupree.” They were also excited about Fox’s decision to acquire Technoprops, a technology company that allows directors to pre-visualize their films before they start shooting.
“Stacey and Fox are being very forward thinking in terms of where the industry is going on a technological level,” says Anthony Russo. “They have that inclination to be disruptive.”
The Russos have already started to option materials and have opened an office in downtown Los Angeles. But before they can start shooting, they still have to finish work on the next two “Avengers” installments.
“They’ll be full-time with us in January,” Snider says. “But we said, ‘Let’s give each other a promise ring; let’s get engaged.’ They are super ambitious.”
As the movie business struggles to keep audiences coming to theaters, the Russos believe solutions will be found at the creative, not just the corporate, level.
“We want to empower artists and filmmakers to forge new paths,” says Joe Russo.