Site puts Focus on films

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Universal specialty division Focus Features is making an ambitious foray into Web publishing, launching a film-centric portal that it hopes will attract audiences by going beyond the marketing teasers found on traditional studio sites.

FilminFocus.com will offer a range of articles on contemporary and classic film and also seek to create a community around those articles.

Editors from Filmmaker magazine, with which Focus has a partnership, will curate and contribute articles to the site. Another Focus partner, film-book publisher Faber & Faber, also will help shape content.

"We want to create something that's not a gossip site and not a business-news site but a place to go if you're serious about films," Focus chief James Schamus said. "It's a place where you can go for new content every day and where we can also have a back-and-forth with the community."

Focus execs will pay close attention to the site to gauge the filmgoing audience, he said.

Focus also has a production collaboration with Random House; the New York publisher is listed as a partner in FilminFocus.com.

With the site, Focus will try the potentially difficult balance between editorial content and marketing. Among other things, the site will try to tease its own films in a more intellectual way — current articles feature stories on set design and scoring of Focus movies like "Atonement" and an essay about the 1940s Shanghai depicted in the Focus movie "Lust, Caution."

Schamus said that while FilminFocus won't hide the fact that it is run under the auspices of Focus, it will cover a broad range of movies. He has given the staff — which is based at Filmmaker and includes Nick Dawson, Peter Bowen and Scott Macaulay — "an arms-length editorial mandate" to populate the site as it sees fit.

Focus will market the site via links in its own ads as well as through other venues.

As the audiences for films spend more time online, several studios have tried to create sites that go beyond the usual come-ons and trailers. Fox Atomic has created an overall destination that has a separate branding and purpose from its films, while IFC has developed editorial content about non-IFC Films movies.

Focus is trying to take a more publishing-centric approach akin to magazines like Film Comment.

"We have an obligation in the film business to grow and nurture the process of filmmaking and film writing because that's how we're gong to grow and nurture audiences," Schamus said. "This is one piece of that puzzle."
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