The crisis in the Hollywood studio system could signal a major upturn for the independent production and finance business, key players are hinting in Berlin.
Release schedules are still packed throughout 2010 but, with annual production budgets being slashed at the studios, that will not be the case from next year. That leaves their distribution organisations, both domestic and international, in desperate need of product.
With Cam Galano recently confirmed as head of a new international acquisitions unit at Warner Bros, and Christian Grass this week named head of international production and acquisitions at Universal, those studios are formally joining Sony, Paramount and Fox in the hunt for independent product. Even Disney is looking to bulk up and last week appointed Jason Reed to head its non-US production activities.
“With all the studios reducing their output from 20-plus a year to the mid-teens, you have to look to other sources,” said Andrew Cripps, president of Paramount Pictures International who added that Los Angeles-based Paramount Worldwide Acquisitions Group (PWAG) is busy in both acquisition and local production to fill the PPI pipeline.
International veteran and former Universal studio chief David Linde is quietly hatching a company which plans to create new, incremental opportunities in this changing landscape.
Linde has been meeting in Berlin and elsewhere in Europe with well-capitalised independents and other media companies to discuss it. The outfit is being described as a hybrid distribution model that will finance two to four films a year with backing from a studio — thought to be Universal — combined with a few key international partners.
Provisionally called Lava Bear, the company plans to focus on globally oriented titles designed for a marketplace which is embracing a robust theatrical window and an accelerating digital distribution market.