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Requiem for Revolver

This week Screen reported the news, being rumoured for weeks, that Revolver Entertainment has shut its doors (its office was empty, although the company is not in administration as of press time).

If Revolver is indeed shuttered, this is bad news for the UK distribution sector. Even most of Revolver’s closest competitors have been saying how sad the news is, without any hint of schadenfreude.

Revolver was always a break-the-mould company. Justin Marciano started the business in 1997 with just £1,000 of his own money, producing motorcycle videos before moving into other types of profitable video deals (Darrin’s Dance Grooves sold more than 120,000 units in 2002, for instance).

The first theatrical release came in 2004 with surfing film Billabong Odyssey. Kidulthood followed in 2006 — it didn’t set any box office records, but it showed Revolver’s envelope-pushing PR and marketing prowess, with a now-infamous billboard depicting Tony Blair and his cabinet as a group of hoodies [pictured]. In 2007, the company had a smash with French hit Tell No One earning £1.2m.

Their Gunslinger production arm took risks on films that nobody else was making, and serving audiences that other distributors weren’t finding ways to engage. Anuvahood really connected with young UK audiences, and offerings like Sket and Shank introduced new filmmaking voices that might not have gotten a break elsewhere.

Revolver recently struck a smart buying partnership with Picturehouse, and jointly worked on the successful release of The Imposter, which went on to win a BAFTA.

The company also took pushed the boat in the digital arena with apps and social networking promotions, and creation of the Facebook tool FindWatchShare.

The distributor has been nominated for several Screen UK Marketing & Distribution Awards over the years, and won the 2012 award for best DVD campaign for Iron Sky. Revolver won a slew awards from Home Entertainment Week, the British Video Association, Summit International Awards and Social Buzz.

Yet we can’t ignore that Revolver wasn’t perfect, and there are financial reasons it is now being shut down.

What went wrong? Some factors could be egos at work, overpaying for product, having offices that were too flash, a staff that was too large (40 employees), and for more mundane factors like the DVD market drying up (does beleaguered HMV owe Revolver money?) and the company’s widest-ever release, Ben Drew’s iLL Manors, not performing as well as expected at the UK box office.

Branching out in the US might have also spread the company too thin. Justin Marciano certainly has a larger-than-life personality that sometimes rubbed people the wrong way, both internal staff and the wider industry.

Yet nobody could say that people working at Revolver were just phoning it in. They were working hard, they were passionate and they were writing their own rules.

There were many, many dedicated and talented people who worked there and I hope they will all land safely on their feet at other companies or set up their own businesses.

The legacy of Revolver isn’t just a sad end with financial trouble, it’s also their creative and innovative work for more than 15 years.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Make. Stuff. Enough. People. Want. To See.

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  • Like so many independent distributors in the UK they had success with one film and over expanded spending money that they didn't have and the success they had wasn't repeated.

    Over the last 20 years so many independent distributors have set up operations within the UK promising so much but either ran before they could walk or been swallowed up by bigger international companies.

    In the years ahead the UK market will become even harder for the independent market as in with companies like Studiocanal & Lions Gate acquiring small distributors and the merger of Eone with Momentum it will be very tough for any other independent distributor to break in to the UK marketplace and they will be fighting over the scraps that the heavyweight independent distributors don’t acquire or looking much wider for films to fill out their release slates.

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  • I was at their Holland Park offices once for a meeting, and it really was wow! One meeting room decorated with their release posters sticks in the memory - and a spacious courtyard which must have been great for lunch in summer. But I came away wondering how they could possibly pay for it all!

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  • when you. know how. to do that. ring me.

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  • Very sad time in the UK. With Eone buying Alliance (Which will be bought by a studio or implode) its just rough. We should find a way to take care of the UK distributors. I'm surprised the UK govt, isn't stepping in to help..

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  • Completely disagree with the post from Digital Services UK above. Although it is a sad time for UK distribution because of the demise of Revolver and Momentum following that of Pathé Distribution and Icon, it is a time of opportunity in the sector. A lot of people are plotting to fill the wide gap in the UK distribution landscape and I rather predict the years to come to be difficult because of a sudden bottle-neck of new companies, but that will be after a golden period! It looks a bit like the late 90s when Momentum, Redbus and Optimum filled the gap and I wouldn't say that these three being "swallowed up" is a proof of failure, quite the opposite!

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  • Revolver will not be missed - Gunslinger even less so.

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  • sandip mahal

    yes, the arguments from friends of mine are that Revolver did not pay people but they gave the opportunity for movies to be released that would otherwise be stuck in development hell. History always repeats itself, look at Palace Pictures, Miramax, Hemdale Films.... they were bad payers but bold visionaries.
    In an ideal world we need honesty but unfortunately the industry is full of sharks....
    better the devil you know

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  • It is clearly a negative thing that an innovative UK Film Distribution company has suffered ,alas it leaves the doors open for the new generation of business thinkers to set up an evolved business model that works in synergy with the new technological avenues that have emerged; and therefore explore profitable methods of distributing via digital means. There is a reason far simpler for Revolvers demise, Operating above their means for the sake of image and of course specific Senior Directors that did not inspire loyalty of their team hence the continues very high turnover of staff.

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