In a fast-moving US distribution market, XLrator Media is focused on multi-platform releasing and is now moving into production. CEO Barry Gordon talks to Screen.

At a time when the distribution landscape is shifting in ways even seasoned professionals can find difficult to second-guess, Los Angeles-based XLrator Media co-founder and CEO Barry Gordon’s thinking on the matter could not be clearer: there are no hard-and-fast rules.

“XLrator is a releasing company that will go to select festivals and markets and work with agents around the world to acquire films for multi-platform distribution,” Gordon says. “It may not be your typical theatrical in the way a studio would do it, but we’re all about the right model for the right project.”

The veteran of high-level media and entertainment sales, marketing, production and acquisitions was previously executive vice-president of home entertainment at The Weinstein Company and senior vice-president of worldwide acquisitions at Image Entertainment. After more than 25 years in the business, Gordon launched XLrator in April 2010 with Shannon McIntosh precisely to champion the kind of films and audiences he believes deserve to be brought together.

Gordon has been highly acquisitive of late, snapping up US rights to several well-known titles. In all cases he works closely with ARC Entertainment, the distributor owned by a New York City-based hedge fund and operated by CEO Trevor Drinkwater. XLrator Media is the release label and co-marketing engine while ARC is the physical distributor.

‘I’m not trying to be a studio but I am looking for films that are for markets and enthusiasts’

Barry Gordon, XLrator Media

“The ARC-XLrator partnership is as competitive as anyone for a certain level of acquisition, as shown by our acquisitions on John Carpenter’s The Ward, [action title] Bunraku and [medieval action film] Ironclad,” Gordon says. “We are currently not going after a $50m studio movie, but on a certain level of film we can compete with Sony, Anchor Bay, Summit and other distributors. If it’s at Sundance and it’s a low-seven-figure range acquisition plus some p&a, we’re in the race.”

Ironclad and John Carpenter’s The Ward are going to be the first big releases for XLrator. “We are going to give [these films] a well-marketed VoD release and a theatrical release, too.” But while Gordon can source appealing marketable material at the pre-buy or completed stage, he says the reality is not every film will work and that is why the company is also moving into production. “XLrator will produce films under the direction of co-founder Shannon McIntosh for efficient budgets,” he says, declining to announce any titles just yet.

“You ‘reverse engineer’ a movie so it works in the distribution channels — be it a VoD play, EST [electronic sell-through], exclusive limited theatrical, etc. I’m not trying to be a ‘traditional’ studio but I am looking for films that are for markets and enthusiasts such as faith-based films, urban films, titles that appeal to English-speaking Latinos, and event programming such as concerts, stage plays, comedy specials and featured speakers and lecturers.”

Something special

Gordon relishes being a distributor in today’s world and says emerging technologies offer opportunities for the sharp-eyed buyer. He believes traditional theatrical distribution is not the be-all-and-end-all. He cites Ironclad as an example of a film that 10 years ago would have been released on 2,000 screens but today needs another way to find its audience at a time when it must contend with so many $100m productions. “It deserves something special. It will get a major multi-platform release — theatrical, VoD and video — and we’re going to use social media to draw awareness among action fans and fans of history.”

Gordon also runs 3rd Wall Entertainment, an event production company that specialises in 2D and 3D multi-camera production and much of this content will be funnelled through XLrator and ARC. The first project is This Is 3rd Wall Comedy, a series of stand-up comedy concerts, and the plan is to distribute in theatres as alternative content, followed by other platforms including wireless.

“I am an out-of-the-box thinker and I like to break rules, but I am also very pragmatic,” Gordon says. “I always keep my right hand on the moon and my left foot in the gutter.”

Barry Gordon

Barry Gordon has served in various executive capacities in the film business for more than 25 years.

As senior vice-president of worldwide acquisitions at Image Entertainment, he worked on long-form music programming.

More recently, he served as executive vice-president of home entertainment for The Weinstein Company, where his key credits included Halloween, 1408 and The Reader.

He launched XLrator Media with Shannon McIntosh in April 2010 and also runs 3rd Wall Entertainment.