Matt Kaplan Departs Awesomeness Films, Launches ACE Entertainment (Exclusive)

Matt Kaplan - Todrick Hall: No Place Like Home Premiere - Getty - H 2017
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ACE has signed a first-look deal with Paramount Players, reuniting Kaplan with his old Awesomeness boss, Brian Robbins.

Matt Kaplan is leaving Awesomeness after two years helming its film division to establish his own production company, ACE Entertainment, that will focus on making films, television series and digital content for youth audiences. 

Through this new shingle, Kaplan has signed a first-look deal for film with Paramount Players, the six-month-old production division run by Brian Robbins. The deal reunites Kaplan with Robbins, the founder and CEO of Awesomeness who departed the company in February. 

Kaplan tells The Hollywood Reporter that ACE partnered with Paramount Players in part because of the companies' shared focus. "I had an incredible run with Brian at Awesomeness and I wanted to continue to make films specifically for a demo that's targeted to millennial and Gen Z as Brian and I had been doing," he says, adding that the goal is to make between six and eight films each year. 

ACE Entertainment has set up offices on the Paramount lot and one of Kaplan's first projects with the studio will be producing the previously announced Are You Afraid of the Dark movie reboot.

"Matt is a talented and creative executive and producer," Robbins said in a statement. "He and I enjoyed a successful partnership at Awesomeness making modestly budgeted films for targeted audiences. I'm excited to continue our relationship here at Paramount Players."

ACE is also producing Netflix's upcoming romantic drama Irreplaceable You, starring Gugu Mbatha Raw and Michiel Huisman, and has sci-fi fantasy Spontaneous from writer-director Brian Duffield and starring Katherine Langford set up at Awesomeness.

In addition to Spontaneous, Kaplan plans to stay in business with Awesomeness by continuing to produce the types of digital projects, like Gatorade-sponsored go90 series Versus, that he worked on while president of Awesomeness Films.

"Matt helped build a best in class film division for Awesomeness that has become a core part of our brand," an Awesomeness spokeswoman said in a statement. "In a short time, we've released nine films together, and look forward to continuing the relationship with a number of upcoming projects including To All the Boys I've Loved BeforeMy Dead Ex, and Spontaneous. We're excited to extend our relationship with him now as a producer in an overall deal and to build on our existing track record, working on even more projects together as we keep expanding our films business."

Kaplan joined Awesomeness in 2015 to help Robbins build out the digital-first company's film slate. He made quick work of building out a slate of young adult fare, including Zoey Deutch starrer Before I Fall and thriller You Get Me. Prior to joining Awesomeness, Kaplan ran Chapter One Films, which had a first-look deal with Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions. Before that, he served as a senior vp at Lionsgate Films, overseeing low-budget projects, including They Came Together starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd. 

Much like at Awesomeness, Kaplan says, ACE will focus on developing up-and-coming talent behind the camera. "Too often, it has become difficult for young voices to have an opportunity to get their films made within a larger system," he says. "We're going to continue to grow filmmakers and nurture their careers." 

He adds that the company plans to "make movies for specific audiences, not everybody but somebody. Whether that means we're targeting a young horror audience or a young comedy audience, we know exactly who the market is."