Although notoriously one of the most risky sectors of the global film industry, it is easy to see why so many want to be in North American distribution. Choose the right personnel, secure financial backing, build a strong pipeline, commit a sensible amount to p&a, get the marketing right - and the rewards can be huge.
But this is easier said than done, and a cursory glance at the overpopulated weekend release schedules will quickly reveal that outside of the studios, successful North American distributors are a tiny minority.
The surfeit of US titles expands the range of what is on offer to distributors, but it does not necessarily expand the range of what will be on offer to cinema-goers. Buyers are a picky bunch - to see this, one only has to count out at the start of a festival the number of films without distributors attached and count them back at the end.
The familiar gripes from buyers stem from the clash between their rarified tastes and the brazenly commercial titles on sale. But the best distributors have an instinct for what makes money, and if they are not producing it, their savvy buyers must spot it and reel it in.
All eyes are on what three new distributors on the scene will do - Overture Films, Summit Entertainment and The Film Department. Each is highly capitalised but is yet to release a film. Mark Gill and Neil Sacker's The Film Department plans to release six films a year, headed by Chloe King's family drama screenplay Lorelei.
Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett's Overture Films is a subsidiary of the Starz Entertainment TV giant and is lining up seven films for release: recent acquisition The Visitor by Thomas McCarthy; Mad Money with Diane Keaton, Katie Holmes and Queen Latifah; Sleepwalking (formerly Ferris Wheel) with Charlize Theron; Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson; Traitor, with Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce; crime thriller Righteous Kill with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino; and the Saigon evacuation drama 105 Degrees And Rising.
Overture has been the most vocal of the three about its acquisitions and productions, in contrast to Summit Entertainment's more low-key approach.
Yet Summit, which is financed to the tune of $1bn through Merrill Lynch and a consortium of investors and is headed by Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman, has quietly assembled a line-up that starts on November 9 with the thriller P2, starring Wes Bentley and Rachel Nichols.
The roster continues into 2008 with Penelope, starring Christina Ricci on January 18, the Summit production and teen action film Get Some with Sean Faris and Djimon Hounsou on March 14, and the thriller Push, another Summit production, to star Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning, in the summer. Family film Fly Me To The Moon is set for August 22, and in development are comedies Mental and Parental Guidance, Catherine Hardwicke's vampire thriller Twilight, and the drama Sensei.
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