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The studio acquired the U.S. rights to the imagined prequel to the classics Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan from Endurance Media after a world premiere at Sundance. Relativity Media has also dropped the latest trailer to Brave director Brenda Chapman’s live-action feature, which imagines a young Alice before Wonderland, played by Keira Chansa, and Peter (Jordan A. Nash) before he became Pan.
The mischievous siblings are seen leaving the safety of their parents, played by Jolie and Oyelowo, and their idyllic country home for adventure in London after tragedy strikes. Relativity Media plans a hybrid theatrical and $19.99 premium video-on-demand release from Nov. 13 for Come Away, which also stars Anna Chancellor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Reece Yates.
Releasing Come Away is also a coming out party for a Relativity Media since its assets were acquired in May 2018 by a consortium led by UltraV Group — a joint venture of funds managed by Sound Point Capital Management and RMRM Holdings. That followed the studio in a previous incarnation under embattled film financier and producer Ryan Kavanaugh filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, first in 2015 and again in 2018.
Lex Miron, CEO of the new Relativity Media, talked to The Hollywood Reporter about taking two years from 2018 to quietly and deliberately rebuild the studio and its industry relationships so it could be properly capitalized and positioned for long-term growth — ahead of the company stepping out into the public spotlight with a relaunch.
Remaking Relativity Media has included licensing the studio’s library to streamers and legacy pay TV providers, and now releasing Come Away, which is produced by Steve Richards of Endurance Media, along with Andrea Keir, Leesa Kahn, James Spring and Oyelowo. The origin story sees Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland let their imaginations go wild in the English countryside with make-believe tea parties, sword fights and pirate ship adventures before journeying to London after misfortune strikes Peter’s family.
The goal is underpinning Relativity Media with a film acquisition, distribution and marketing strategy focused on smaller to mid-budget films, and creating a pipeline of quality films for a fast-changing global content market.
“That’s why we think we’re well positioned for long-term success. And our decision-making is focused on long-term success,” Miron tells THR.
You head up the new Relativity Media, two years out from the studio led by Ryan Kavanaugh filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time in 2018 — followed by you and your consortium acquiring its assets. Tell us why you see your studio poised for long-term growth after a bankruptcy drama that mesmerized Hollywood.
First, we have an incredibly stable and robust capital structure, which positions us differently than anyone else in the industry. We’re backed by a $20 billion fund. We’re very deliberate, we’re very disciplined. We’re focused on our people, our principals and our partners. That culture drives every decision we make. That’s why we think we’re well positioned for long-term success. And our decision-making is focused on long-term success.
That relaunch strategy fulfills your promise back in 2018 that, post-bankruptcy, you and your consortium would provide sufficient capital to resume Relativity Media’s operations and then develop and distribute original content through existing and future platforms?
I’m sure we have some minds to change over time about Relativity, but over the last two years we’ve spent time telling people what we’re going to do, and everyone has seen we’ve gone out and done what we said we’d do.
Come Away is the first commercial release for the new Relativity Media. Why choose the Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo-starrer as your first title brought to market?
We first looked at Come Away at Sundance. It plays right into one of our big differentiators at Relativity, as a company. We focus on people, we focus on principles and we focus on our partners. And with that we attempt to solve complicated problems with creative solutions. And with Come Away, we have great relationships and they had some needs that were a little bit complicated, and we were able to be flexible — on top of really liking the film.
Words like “complicated” and “being flexible” suggests you were looking for a wider theatrical release initially for Come Away, but the pandemic led you to a hybrid film launch, with a day-and-date indie theatrical and premium $19.99 VOD launch. How did that release strategy evolve?
We recognize that the world is changing. It’s always changing, we’re just feeling it more today because the pace of change is so magnified by COVID and social distancing and things we can do and can’t do. We had to be flexible. This takes us back to our core culture. We have our relationships, our principles and our spirit of partnership. And we solved a complicated problem by getting this into the world on as many screens as we could. We can’t predict as normally as we could how many people will show up at theaters. There just isn’t enough data. But we have a terrific set of partners for the premium VOD release and we’re going to have as successful campaign with this film had we been theatrical.
The simultaneous theatrical-PVOD release for Come Away means your exhibition and online partners will share in the movie’s revenues, so it’s a win-win for all involved?
We have partners and constituents. In this case, it’s our shareholders, it’s our partners in the film, Come Away. And it’s our distribution partners, whether they be exhibitors or online platforms. And we will make this available to as many theaters as we can. Theatrical releases are a big part of our business plan going forward. But given the world we’re in, there’s a lot of uncertainty around that. We want to make sure we’ve got good partners all round. We don’t think we’re harming anyone’s economics. We think it’s a win-win all round.
Come Away is a family-friendly film. And by going both theatrically and to online platforms, are you confident you’ll get as broad an audience as possible beyond the local multiplex?
We think Come Away is a terrific family film. It’s the origin story of Alice and Peter. And today there’s not a lot that’s new that’s geared toward families. We love the talent in the film. And we want to make it as accessible as we could to everyone. Regardless of whether someone wants to sit in a theater, or not, we wanted to make it accessible and everybody will have their own feelings about that.
Part of rebuilding Relativity Media was monetizing its content library. Tell us about that revenue-generating effort.
We haven’t just put our library on sale. When we made the Relativity acquisition, one of the key assets of the company was the film library. It has 40-plus titles, and we’re up to around 100 now as we’ve acquired another 30 titles in the last couple months to represent. We’re not just walking in and saying, “Will you buy some of this, please?” It’s working closely with the buyers and the programmers to make sure that we have product that they need and product that they want, and we’re in constant conversation to ensure we’re relevant to them.
A big question for the industry is whether streaming giants can continue releasing content, given the production disruption caused by the global pandemic. How do you see Hollywood’s content market shaping up into next year and beyond?
Like everybody in the industry, we’re watching closely what the largest players are doing — whether it’s Comcast or Disney or Netflix or Hulu, which is some combination of the above. They’re going to shape the future of the industry, and we want to make sure that we’re not chasing the puck around the ice. We want to skate to where we believe the puck will be. Everybody in the industry is being very attentive and observant, and to some extent we’re very analytical people. We don’t have all the answers today, but we have great relationships across the board, and that positions us well to be terrific partners to everybody in the industry in five years.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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