You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Saban Films Turns 5: How the Indie Studio Grew While Rivals Faltered

Saban Films doesn’t make the most noise. It doesn’t have the splashiest premieres or parties. But the indie film label just quietly did what many of its early rival failed to pull off. It celebrated its fifth anniversary at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

“We stuck to our plan,” Saban Films founder Bill Bromiley told Variety. “Sometimes it was tough seeing our competitors pick up a big movie or pay a lot of money on an awards race. They had all the hype and we were the guys who were sort of in the background.”

Flying a little under the radar served Bromiley and his team well. Saban Films launched in 2014, the same year that Broad Green, an indie label backed by Wall Street multi-millionaire Gabriel Hammond, opened for business. It found itself in competition for films with the likes of Relativity Media, the Orchard, the Weinstein Company, and Clarius. What do all of those companies have in common? Unlike Saban, they’ve been sold off, gone bankrupt, or ceased to exist. With that kind of high mortality rate, a fifth anniversary, a relatively modest accomplishment in some sectors, is indeed something to celebrate.

Many of those companies bet heavily on awards season contenders. Saban Films has forged a different path, backing more genre-driven efforts. Its roster of movies includes thrillers such as “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” with Hilary Duff and “Siberia” with Keanu Reeves; action fare such as “I am Wrath” with John Travolta; and dramas such as “The Homesman,” a Tommy Lee Jones movie that Saban picked up when it launched in 2014.

“We’re risk adverse,” said Bromiley. “We like things that have a strong genre element and are cast driven. We see a lot of terrific strong movies that we pass on, because we can’t figure out a way to get an audience to see them.”

Bromiley, formerly the chief acquisitions officer of RLJ Entertainment, formed the company with backing from media investor Haim Saban’s Saban Capital Group. Almost every Saban movie gets some form of theatrical release. However, the company also backs a robust video-on-demand and home entertainment rollout, often having its movies open on those platforms while they’re still on screens. Not every movie works, Bromiley admits. For instance, he calls last year’s “Lizzie,” a well-reviewed drama about alleged murderer Lizzie Borden that sputtered at the box office despite a star turn from Kristen Stewart, a “nobel failure.”

Aside from those missteps, the business is growing. In 2014, Saban released just over a half dozen movies. This year, it plans to release nearly 30 films. Bromiley didn’t share detailed financial information, but he did say that Saban has operated in the black since its inception. Revenue will grow 20% in 2019 and profitability hit a new record in the first quarter, he added.

At Cannes, Saban was an active buyer, forging deals for the likes of “I See You” with Helen Hunt and “Bottom of the 9th” starring Joe Manganiello and Sofía Vergara. But the film company isn’t just acquiring movies. It’s also boarding projects at the script stage. Most of these films have budgets in the $5 million to $15 million range. Some of these projects include Kevin Smith’s “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” and Rob Zombie’s “3 From Hell.”

“We want to dig in even deeper,” said Bromiley. “We want to join projects as early as possible.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • For web story

    Toronto: Sony Pictures Classics Buys 'The Burnt Orange Heresy' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sony Pictures Classics has nabbed the rights to “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” Variety has learned. The indie label plans to release the film in 2020. The Italian-American thriller was directed by Giuseppe Capotondi and stars Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki, Mick Jagger, and Donald Sutherland. Scott Smith adapted Charles Willeford’s novel of the same name, transporting [...]

  • Thomasin McKenzie and Essie Davis

    Thomasin McKenzie and Essie Davis to Star in 'Justice of Bunny King'

    Essie Davis, star of “The Babadook” and autumn festival hit “Babyteeth,” and “Jojo Rabbit” co-star Thomasin McKenzie will headline upcoming drama “The Justice of Bunny King.” The film, now shooting in New Zealand, is a triumph over adversity tale about women fighting their way back from the bottom of society. It is the debut feature [...]

  • Calm With Horses

    Nick Rowland Talks About Toronto Debut Film 'Calm With Horses'

    “Calm with Horses,” which made its world premiere in Toronto’s TIFF in the Discovery section, is the feature directorial debut of Nick Rowland (Amazon series “Ripper Street”), and stars Barry Keoghan (Marvel’s upcoming “The Eternals,” “Dunkirk”), Cosmo Jarvis (“Annihilation”), and Niamh Algar (BBC’s “The Virtues”). The script, which was adapted from Colin Barrett’s short story [...]

  • Colin Trevorrow Directs Jurassic World Short

    Colin Trevorrow Returns to Jurassic World in Short Film 'Battle at Big Rock'

    Dinosaurs are roaming the Earth again. In a new short from “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow, rogue beasts wreak havoc on a family camping trip. The eight-and-a-half minute film, titled “Battle at Big Rock,” takes place a year after the events of “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom.” The 2018 blockbuster — starring Chris Pratt and Bryce [...]

  • Bert Kreischer The Machine

    Legendary Lands Rights to Bert Kreischer’s Viral Story 'The Machine' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Legendary has optioned the rights to develop comedian Bert Kreischer’s story “The Machine” into a feature film following its viral success, sources tell Variety. The video has generated more than 85 million views on Facebook and YouTube since hitting the social media channels in December 2016 and Legendary moved aggressively to land the rights. Kreischer [...]

  • Margot Robbie poses at the launch

    Margot Robbie in Talks to Executive Produce, Star in Comedy 'Fools Day'

    Margot Robbie is in negotiations to executive produce and star as a fourth-grade teacher in New Line’s comedy “Fools Day.” New Line has acquired Cody Blue Snider’s short film of the same name to adapt into the feature project. Snider, who co-wrote and directed the short, will direct the full-length feature from a script he [...]

  • M Night Shyamalan'Glass' film premiere, Arrivals,

    M. Night Shyamalan Sets Two New Films at Universal

    M. Night Shyamalan will write and direct two new movies at Universal Pictures, the studio announced Monday. The currently untitled thrillers will be released in theaters on Feb. 26, 2021 and Feb. 17, 2023, respectively. “M. Night Shyamalan continues to create exciting, highly original stories that keep global audiences on the edge of their seats,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content