With deep roots in the not-so-glamorous world of independent theatrical distribution - and headquarters in laid-back Malibu rather than swanky Beverly Hills - Freestyle Releasing has always had a relatively low profile.
But over time, says president and co-founder Mark Borde, "we've put together a studio-style distribution company," whose team of veteran sales executives can handle 1,000 or even 2,000-print US releases on a 'service deal' basis for clients including independent producers, mini-majors and studios.
And with that distribution capability, Freestyle has helped produce significant domestic returns for some of its clients' films - from early wide-release success An American Haunting, which took $16.3m in summer 2006, to last autumn's Dragon Wars, the $11m-grossing US version of Korean monster smash D-War.
Borde and fellow president/founder Susan Jackson formed Freestyle in 2004 by bringing together Innovation Film Group - the latest venture in a career that Borde had started in the early 1970s when he joined his family's theatrical distribution business - and Turtles Crossing, a production, sales and marketing company run by UK-born Jackson. By uniting the two companies, says Jackson, "we felt we'd be able to upgrade the level of the films we'd been distributing".
The result was a company that now handles 14-20 wide or platform releases a year for clients who want to avoid the cost of a studio deal but do not want to set up their own distribution apparatus. With Freestyle, the client typically pays an upfront fee plus a percentage - from around 2.5% for wide releases up to 10% for platform releases - of the film rental collected.
Though many companies put up their own prints and advertising money, Freestyle can help producers set up a deal with a p&a fund.
The service deal - or 'rent-a-system' - model has been employed by Freestyle clients including After Dark (producer of An American Haunting and the 8 Films To Die For package) and German producer-director Uwe Boll (whose In the Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale was released by Freestyle in January and grossed $4.8m).
Yari Film Group (YFG) was a regular client before it set up its own domestic distribution operation and now Freestyle acts as YFG's theatrical booking agent. Yari's The Illusionist, which took $39.9m domestically in summer 2006, remains the highest grossing title on which Freestyle has worked and this year the company will be booking Yari releases including festival prize winner The Accidental Husband and Assassination Of A High School President. Releases from other clients will include The Nobel Son and The Fifth Commandment.
In addition to benefitting from Freestyle's theatrical experience, clients can also access the pre-negotiated DVD deals Turtles Crossing has with the Hollywood studios. For that, says Jackson, "we charge a very small premium and we make sure the money flows directly to the producer".
Fast-flowing revenue is one of the major advantages of a service deal, Borde argues. "The film rental receipts flow directly back to the producer at record speed," he says. "They're getting their money back from us within six months, and that's unheard of in this business. That's why we're turning down more pictures than we can handle."