Our success is down to the people we have," says Revolver Entertainment's MD and founder Justin Marciano, not in a boastful way but giving credit where credit is due. "We have one of the best unknown teams in the industry."
Staying unknown, however, could be a challenge as Revolver celebrates its most successful year to date, led by the $2.3m (£1.2m) success of its UK release of French thriller Tell No One by Guillaume Canet. Revolver is also routinely praised (or envied) among the UK industry for the smart way Marciano has grown the business steadily and played to the company's strengths in marketing.
Less than two years after fully jumping into the theatrical world, Revolver is number 15 in the UK, beating market share for more established players such as Tartan, Artificial Eye and Metrodome.
Those smart but under-the-radar team members Marciano touts include deputy MD Nick Taussig, who joined Revolver seven years ago after working in commercials and music videos; Nick Savva, formerly of BBC Films, who heads the acquisitions and business affairs department; and sales director David Shear, who recently moved from The Works UK Distribution.
Marciano started Revolver in late 1997 with just $2,000 (£1,000) of his own money. The company started as a producer of motorcycle videos, then moved into more profitable magazine-branded special interest titles for sports and health publishers. "Off the back of that, people started to approach us with content and by default we started licensing videos and doing direct-to-consumer sales," Marciano explains.
Within a few years, the company broadened its activities, working with traditional retailers. In 2002, Revolver sold more than 120,000 units of US instructional video Darrin's Dance Grooves in the UK. "That was the beginning of us seeing the potential. It evolved title by title to grow the market share," he explains.
In 2004, the company had its first cinema release, surfing film Billabong Odyssey. From there, Marciano and his team thought they could ease into theatrical distribution. He admits that 2005 "was a huge, steep learning curve, theatrical was a very different business from what we were used to".
But Revolver came through 2006 with a modest hit - Menhaj Huda's urban-teen drama Kidulthood - which also proved the company had a special knack for marketing. "We don't just expect to put out good films and the audience will find them. Marketing is a real passion for me personally and for a lot of people here," Marciano says.
With Kidulthood they let the core audience discover the film theatrically without pushing it too hard - using mobile, viral and web campaigns. And to create more noise for the DVD release, Revolver created a now-infamous billboard that tied into the political aspects of the film, depicting Tony Blair and his cabinet as a gang of hoodie-wearing youths.
"We got national news from that," Marciano says proudly. "We will take risks but they are calculated risks. We passed that with our lawyers and we had a standard billboard poster on standby."
Other 2006 releases included Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man, Gela Babluani's 13 (Tzameti) (which Revolver boarded after seeing early footage), Terry Gilliam's Tideland and dance documentary Ballets Russes.
This year has seen greater strides: Tell No One and Jindabyne performed well, even if Ghosts Of Cite Soleil did not connect as solidly at the box office.
Marciano says that breaking the $2m barrier with Tell No One has been important. "Every indie distributor wonders when you're going to have that film that breaks you to the next level. With Tell No One, we saw the first screening at AFM last year and pursued it quickly. There's a broader foreign-language audience out there than just for highbrow arthouse films."
The rest of the year will bring 9/11 conspiracy theory documentary Loose Change Final Cut; Lagerfeld Confidential; Gela and Temur Babluani's Legacy; Kenneth Branagh's opera adaptation The Magic Flute; Ben Kingsley-starrer You Kill Me; and Tom Kalin's Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore,
For 2008, Revolver already has a number of provocative releases lined up: Robinson Devor's lauded bestiality story Zoo; Jamie Morgan's Tribeca hit The Workshop; Taxi To The Dark Side; Italian hit My Brother Is An Only Child; Young People Fucking; and Big River Man.
Marciano explains that Revolver is moving into more pre-buys, and is buying about half its films completed, and half at earlier stages. The company also recently co-produced Chris Atkins' doc Taking Liberties, and is developing a few documentaries in-house (including a Burning Man project with Jamie Morgan). "We realise we want to be investing at the earliest stage before they are on the market for everyone," Marciano says.
While the theatrical business may attract more headlines, the DVD business is still fuelling the bottom line. In addition to about 12 theatrical releases per year, the company has an additional 40-50 home-entertainment titles. Recent DVD pick-ups include Marc Munden's acclaimed Channel 4 Iraq drama The Mark Of Cain, Larry Clark's Wassup Rockers, straight-to-video horrors, and motorsports and music titles. The company also publishes soundtracks and books.
Revolver has 22 employees, but tends to grow a bit every six months. That does not mean it plans to grow to an Optimum or Pathe level soon. "Rather than increase the number of films, we want to stick to being boutique but those films will increase in potential," Marciano says. The company has also recently branched out with a "very small" video label in North America, based in Los Angeles. That label launches November 6 with Gumball 3000 featuring Tony Hawk.
As always, marketing is key. Recent DVD campaigns include a food-eating competition for Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and gathering 800 zombies in Leicester Square for The Zombie Diaries. "We do this because we have fun with it, but also we don't have Universal's marketing budget," Marciano explains. "The market share we're achieving with less films than our competitors and more innovative spending in ideas, that sets us apart. We want to make more noise than anyone else."
|REVOLVER TOP 10 THEATRICAL HITS|
|Title||Year of||no of||£ gross||$ gross|
|Tell No One||2007||30||£1.2m||$2.3m|
|What The Bleep Do We Know!'||2005||7||£131,189||$265,574|
|A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints||2007||10||£68,420||$138,543|