Berlin: Great Point Media's Jim Reeve and Robert Halmi Jr. on Expanding Into Film
The duo behind the Brit financing powerhouse also discuss their Berlin entry 'Damsel,' and what they plan to do with their new $100 million fund.
Led by industry vets Robert Halmi Jr. and Jim Reeve, Great Point Media has grown from “three people in a room talking to each other” in 2013 to an operation with 24 staffers in London and five in New York. The firm is primarily a financier of high-end U.K. TV (most recently BBC/PBS’ three-part adaptation of Little Women and the upcoming BBC/Amazon TV movie King Lear, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson), and the small screen makes up about 80 percent of Great Point’s business. But the company has been making major movements in the film world — first as an investor, backing indie hits such as 2017’s Lady Macbeth. Then it added a sales outfit, which handled Sally Potter’s The Party (it world premiered at the 2017 Berlinale and was released in the U.S. this month). And now, following an announcement ahead of Sundance, it has added a U.S. distribution arm with plans to theatrically launch eight to 12 titles a year. This year, Great Point has the Robert Pattinson-Mia Wasikowska Western Damsel in the Berlinale competition. Speaking to THR from their fresh-looking office in London’s Covent Garden, Halmi and Reeve discussed their unique one-stop-shop business model.
What was the motivation behind launching your distribution arm?
HALMI The market is such that the top guys get the Sony Classics or Bleecker Streets, Roadside Attractions, Netflixes or Amazons to release their films — and it’s great for everybody. But the next level down are just guys looking for home entertainment rights packages, where the film
is released in 10 theaters, then immediately goes to pay-per-view and on-demand.
And there’s money to be made by releasing these films theatrically?
HALMI There’s definitely money to be made there, but we’d like to be the ones making it. Our business is different; we do traditional releases, not day-and-date. We’ll support the film in theaters, and that will equate to home entertainment values for all of us later.
How will you choose which films to take for yourself?
HALMI We’ll take our titles to markets and let distributors have the bidding war that everyone wants. But if that doesn’t happen and we don’t get the offers that get people excited, it’ll go into a theater with us behind it.
You’ve worked with new filmmakers and established names — what sort of projects are coming your way?
REEVE There’s the kind of indie producer challenge of having a project that you really want to do and going through the potentially perpetual limbo land of never quite being able to get it made. You’ve got the talent, the director, need to get a couple of presales, but by then the talent isn’t available. This is all normal, but I suppose we’ve been able to short-circuit that and get things to happen.
REEVE The Party is one. As we bumped into it, they were hanging onto more pieces than most people were able to do at one time, but it was still seven out of eight, and they couldn’t press the button. We were able to do that, and therefore it gets made. Damsel was similar.
You seem to be fully financing most of your projects yourself.
HALMI We don’t really fully finance everything. We do pay for the film, but there’s always some guaranteed return back to us in either tax credits, presales, output deals. We don’t take 100 percent risk in a film; we never have.
REEVE But certainly in terms of cash, if someone walks in the door with an amazing film project that would, say, cost $1 million, we have that. So in that sense, we could cash-flow that project.
Are all of your films profitable?
REEVE We’d be talking on a very big yacht if the answer was that every single project went into net profit, because obviously they don’t. HALMI We’ve had some that have broken out and some that have just recouped their money. In most cases, to be honest, it’s too early to tell.
What’s Great Point’s next move?
HALMI We just closed a fund, so there’s fresh money — over $100 million — to invest in TV, and the next evolution is making those funds available to U.S. projects and producers.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Feb. 16 daily issue at the Berlin Film Festival.