MIAMI — In a big, bold affirmation of the value of movies in a new TV world, WarnerMedia’s Turner Latin America, one of Latin America’s biggest pay TV operators, is launching Particular Crowd, a film production-acquisition company with a 90 English-language movie slate for 2020.
Based out of Los Angeles, Particular Crowd will make many of its movies available on TNT and Space, flagship Turner channels in Latin America.
Broadening its distribution gamut, however, Particular Crowd has also signed with Cinepolis Distribución, the Mexican exhibition giant’s theatrical distribution arm, for it to open select Particular Crowd titles in cinema theaters in Latin America. Other movies will be available in serialized episodic format across social media platforms.
Yet other movies may of course go straight to HBO Max. Particular Crowd began to produce in early 2019 with linear networks in mind. With the announcement and launch of HBO Max, however, it is now “trying to have some movies with more relevance for audiences watching content on OTTs, rather than linear, but balancing both worlds in the slate, because we still have a very powerful business in linear,” according to Tomás Yankelevich, EVP & chief content officer, general entertainment, Turner Latin America.
30 Particular Crowd movie titles were completed in 2019; another 60 titles should be ready for delivery this year, Yankelevich added.
First Particular Crowd originals include “Possessor,” a sci-fi horror film directed by Brandon Cronenberg and starring Christopher Abbott, Andrea Riseborough, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuppence Middleton and Sean Bean. Produced by Rhombus Media and Rook Films, it world premieres Jan. 25 at the Sundance Film Festival.
Also on Particular Crowd’s production-acquisitions slate are comedy “Vicious Fun,” starring David Koechner; high-octane action film “Guns Akimbo,” with Daniel Radcliffe, an Occupant Entertainment production that played September’s Toronto Festival; apartheid-era jailbreak thriller “Escape from Pretoria,” also with Daniel Radcliffe, co-produced and sold by Arclight Films; and time-travel animated feature “Stardog and Turbocat,” voiced by Nick Frost and Luke Evans.
Details of Particular Crowd will be announced at a launch breakfast on Jan. 22 at the NATPE conference in Miami, attended by Turner Latin America president Whit Richardson, Yankelevich, and Particular Crowd VP Peter Bevan.
Both Yankelevich and Bevan were keen to stress in the sunup to the launch that it is more than just a Latin American operation.
“Though targeting primarily a Latin American audience on our various platforms, we are outward looking globally in how we want the content to perform,” said Bevan.
Particular Crowd’s focus on mainstream genres of horror, thriller, comedy, romantic comedy, teen, and family, “is not only because we see them as high performance but also because we know they’re genre categories that are going to travel, irrespective of what language the local audience speaks,” Bevan added.
In order to deliver such a high production volume, Particular Crowd has signed development, co-financing and co-production partnerships with MarVista Entertainment, whose credits include “Bitch” and “A Deadly Adoption,” as well as U.S. genre specialists Defiant Studios (“Monster Party,” “Berserk”) and Kodiak Pictures (“Vanishing ”), Blumhouse Television, U.K. outfits The Tea Shop & Co. and Signature Entertainment, and Canadian company Breakthrough Entertainment.
On all of its movies, Particular Crowd will look for partners that can finance “at least 50%” of budgets, “which allows us to get into really huge movies,” which wouldn’t be profitable in local-language, Yankelevich said,
News of Turner’s massive movie move comes as other TV companies have begun to move into film: “Velvet” producer Bambu Producciones in Spain is just one example. Netflix also confirmed at its results press conference yesterday that it would continue to ramp up its movies slate.
As international audiences for foreign-language series grow, especially in Spanish, Turner Latin America’s drive into English-language films might not seem the most obvious strategy to grow in the future. But there is larger picture.
Already a dominant force in Latin American pay TV, with a 24% regional market share last year (through Dec. 15), Turner Latin America boasted five of the region’s top 10 channels in 2019: Cartoon Network (No. 1), TNT (No. 4), Space (No. 6), TNT Series (No. 8) and Warner Channel (No. 10).
Turner Latin America original growth came, however, via acquisitions, especially in general entertainment. Yet present-day potential for acquisitions is limited, so TLA needed to generate more content, as consumer habits are changing.
From 2017, Turner Latin America began to ramp up original series production. Mid-decade, it used to produce about 20 hours of high-end scripted series a year. By 2019, it was close to 120. Particular Crowd marks a further and significant step in what Richardson calls the company’s transformation into “a leading Latin American intellectual property hub.”
“Studying how to invest in production, and looking at our linear networks, we realized that movies were pretty much the ratings drivers,” Yankelevich said.
“If made in English, they can travel around the world, and can be watched over and over again, unlike series where we want to have a local flavor because of their marketing value and to have something different,” he explained.
Movies also increase channels’ engagement with audiences. “If Turner brands the films as originals, as TNT Originals or Space Originals, that also gives us the opportunity of being unique to our audience, and we’re talking about 50, 60 films a year, which is really big,” Yankelevich said.
Particular Crowd will set out to produce, or co-produce, not sit back and see what’s on offer. Its “primary focus is on content we either develop ourselves, such as ‘Vicious Fun,’ or partner on projects very early,” said Bevan.
“We are not passive partners. We like to be in on development from the scripting stage, offering notes on cast, watching the dailies,” he added, citing “Possessor” and “Escape from Pretoria” as examples of co-production.
On all movies, Particular Crowd will exercise a total buy out for Latin America. International rights are handled on a title-by-title case.