Filmmakers Deon and Roxanne Avent Taylor are expanding their (HEFG) production banner to include a new distribution company — Hidden Empire Releasing.
The new film distribution and content sales company specializes in monetizing films across all content platforms and joins the HEFG portfolio which already includes Hidden Empire Productions; the film and television production company, Hyper Engine; and a marketing & branding agency that specializes in reaching diverse audiences.
News of the endeavor comes after the Taylors self-distributed the comedy movie “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2,” which debuted at the top of the speciality box office in June with a $2,408 per-theater average on 420 screens. Written and directed by Deon Taylor, the movie is a sequel to 2016’s cult hit “Meet the Blacks, staring Mike Epps, Katt Williams and Bresha Webb, and has earned $2.89 million worldwide.
Between that success and the industry’s need to adapt to the “new Hollywood,” particularly as affected by the pandemic, Hidden Empire has crafted a “Taylor-Made” approach to film releasing.
“Taking a hard look at the new landscape even as it continues to shift, it is clear that content is increasingly becoming thought of and treated as a commodity, and that is not part of our strategy,” Roxanne Avent Taylor, producer and Co-CEO of Hidden Empire Film Group, said announcing the new endeavor.
“From the start, we began a two-way conversation with our audience and over time an army of voices for many disenfranchised formed and, in many cases, joined together in force with us,” Deon Taylor, director and Hidden Empire’s co-CEO, added.
Noting that his own film was caught in the pandemic pipeline, Taylor continued: “Listening to the audience when ‘Fatale’ was released, at a time when it was unclear if the theatrical business would even survive, gave us new insight to their desires, needs and behavior.”
As a result, Hidden Empire Releasing was born.
The new company, the Taylors explain, is intended to help Hollywood creators whose content is increasingly squeezed out of the major studios’ slates and find other avenues for distribution, including theatrical streaming, VOD and pay TV windows. HEFG’s newly hired COO, Quincy Newell, is prepping the media company for the expansion.
Hidden Empire Releasing is aimed to develop content “to underserved audiences speaking directly to them as a partner,” Avent Taylor said, and will reinforce the idea that no two films are alike, so no standard release plan will (or should) exist.
“Films are a unifying cultural beacon that for over 100 years have brought many audiences, that didn’t look like each other, together through story or spectacle,” Taylor added. “We are blessed that we now get to be a home where filmmakers, through their own creative vision and storytelling, bring us all together in my favorite place, the movie theater, but also in all those new tricked out home-theaters.”
Hidden Empire Releasing’s first film will be the psychological horror movie “Fear,” set for release on Valentine’s Day weekend in 2022. Directed by Taylor and filmed over 15 days amid the pandemic, “Fear” stars Joseph Sikora, Andrew Bachelor, Anne Ilonzeh, Iddo Goldberg, Ruby Modine, Jessica Allain, Terrence J and T.I.
“There is no question our emotions are the scariest thing of all, with the emotion of fear being the most horrific and debilitating,” “Fear” producer Damon Wolf said, explaining why Valentine’s Day is the “perfect date” to release the movie.
“Deon has a talent for taking something simple, like buying a house or a romantic tryst, and turning it into a freak show,” he continued. “With ‘Fear,’ he zeroes in on that one thing we are most afraid of and turns it into a frightening, mind-bending reality. The perfect date to release this is Valentine’s Day weekend, of course.”
Wolf will oversee the theatrical marketing for “Fear’s” release. The former Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Distribution for Lionsgate, first worked with the Taylors on Sony/Screen Gems’ “The Intruder,” as well as last year’s Lionsgate release, “Fatale.”
“When horror holds such a unique concept like it does with ‘Fear,’ it becomes something bigger and can spark that cultural conversation,” added Jared Goetz. “Because it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, we all can relate to fear.”
Goetz, former Disney SVP of digital distribution and president of North American sales for Lionsgate, will handle domestic ancillary rights sales. Dylan Marchetti from Variance Films will oversee theatrical distribution.
Other upcoming Hidden Empire Film projects include “Freedom Ride,” which tells the story of the late John Lewis and the Freedom Riders; “Silent John,” directed by Aisha Tyler; the football-based heist film “Free Agents,” starring 50 cent; a re-imagined reboot of the classic Blaxploitation horror film “Blacula” for MGM; and the remake of CJ Entertainment’s “Grave Hill.”
Hidden Empire is represented by UTA.