How Relativity's Implosion Impacts TIFF
5 buyers — from Amazon to Netflix to STX — who could capitalize on Ryan Kavanaugh's collapse by targeting festival films.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Would-be buyers are circling what remains, post-Chapter 11, of Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media. The company’s assets — including international rights to Masterminds and Kidnap, the Immortals sequel and a reboot of The Crow — are on the block, with final bids due Sept. 25. Whatever the outcome, Kavanaugh’s exit spells opportunity for a select pack of new producers and distributors heading to Toronto who are ambitious enough to fill the market demand for midbudget films. "The newer companies will have to prove themselves with their first few releases," says Ben Weiss, co-head of motion picture finance at Paradigm. "But by coming out of the gate strongly, they’ll be able to compete with the traditional buyers without having to overpay."
The streaming service has bolstered its film department by hiring indie veteran Ted Hope to run its original feature production department, adding Picturehouse CEO Bob Berney as its head of distribution and marketing and bringing Weinstein Co. executive Julie Rapaport aboard. Insiders say the aggressive new player will be active at Toronto but may focus on statement acquisitions rather than volume. "Amazon Studios will be at Toronto on the lookout for visionary work from visionary directors that will play well theatrically and excite our Amazon Prime members," says Hope.
BROAD GREEN PICTURES
Backed by financial entrepreneurs and brothers Gabriel and Daniel Hammond, Broad Green made its mark in 2014 when it won Andrew Garfield starrer 99 Homes amid stiff competition. Since launching distribution at last year’s fest, the production company (which had only a dozen employees a year ago and now has about 80) has set up a slate that includes Robert Redford starrer A Walk in the Woods (Sept. 2), tennis comedy Break Point (Sept. 4) and two Terrence Malick films. It will be on the prowl for all-audience wide releases and art house projects alike.
Luc Besson’s company served a notice of default against Relativity for its financing (and co-production) of such films as 3 Days to Kill and The Family. But RED, EuropaCorp’s distribution joint venture with Relativity, remains intact, and the French studio has the capital (with a new credit line worth up to $600 million) to go it alone. Besson also has the projects — Barry Sonnenfeld’s Nine Lives, Javier Bardem-Penelope Cruz starrer Escobar and Valerian with Dane DeHaan — to take up slack in the market.
The streaming giant has brought its first original feature — Cary Fukunaga’s warlord drama Beasts of No Nation — to Toronto, made a deal in Cannes for David Michod’s $60 million War Machine starring Brad Pitt and has Angelina Jolie Pitt directing a Cambodian human rights drama. But Netflix still has to prove its big bets can work in theaters. "As long as they keep making Adam Sandler films, I’m not worried about the competition," says Rudiger Boss, buyer for German broadcast group ProSiebenSat.1, referencing Netflix’s much-mocked four-picture deal with the comedic actor, who has had a string of box-office flops.
The Robert Simonds venture, which recently picked up sci-fi tale Out of This World from Relativity, has been building a roster of midbudget ($20 million to $60 million) movies around A-list actors and filmmakers. On Aug. 7, the company released its first film, Blumhouse thriller The Gift, which has grossed north of $40 million in the U.S. With plans to release 15 movies annually by 2017, STX wants material to add to its slate, which includes Matthew McConaughey Civil War drama The Free State of Jones and a The Secret in Their Eyes remake with Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts. But it hasn’t been an active festival buyer, opting to focus on homegrown fare.