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Oscar Watching: The First Sure-Fire Best Picture Nominee Has Just Arrived And It’s Only July – Let The Race Begin

By | Friday July 11, 2014 @ 3:15pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Oscar Watching: The First Sure-Fire Best Picture Nominee Has Just Arrived And It’s Only July – Let The Race BeginEmmy nominations may only have been released yesterday, and I know it’s still just July, but with the opening of Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood today I am declaring July 11th the new official start of the Oscar season (at least for this year) with a film that I predict will occupy one of those prized Best Picture slots when Academy Award nominations are announced six months from now. It’s a bold statement considering last year’s first of nine eventual Best Picture nominees, Gravity, wasn’t released until October 4th, and generally with few exceptions of late , most of the nominees still come in the Fall season (although 2009′s Best Pic winner The Hurt Locker actually debuted in late June of that year and rallied later in the game to take it all). Boyhood’s  distributor IFC Films also has not been a major player in the Best Picture races, but Boyhood producer John Sloss told me they have made a complete commitment to this film like no other.

boyhood__140507074117A top awards veteran consultant Cynthia Swartz and her Strategy P.R. have been on the movie for months, slowly positioning it for a run. Just last week IFC President Jonathan Sehring, who greenlit it and supported it for a dozen years, told our indie box office reporter Brian Brooks that the film is his favorite project of his entire professional career. “It’s not like anything I have ever been involved with and is my crowning professional achievement no matter how it performs,” he told Brooks. … Read More »

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Produced By: Distributors Enlist Producers In Fight For VOD Transparency

By | Monday June 9, 2014 @ 6:08pm PDT

produced-by-schulman-slossThe rallying cry for transparency in VOD reporting fell on receptive ears Sunday at the 2014 Produced By conference, where Cinetic Media’s John Sloss appealed to the financial interests of the producers in the room regarding the mounting importance of VOD and digital distribution. “The promise of transparency creates the promise of the future of cleaner revenue streams,” said Sloss. “And the efficiency of the future should push more revenue back to you.”

Sloss has been indie film’s most vocal proponent of VOD data reporting since he went public with VOD performance numbers on indie Escape from Tomorrow and called for others to do the same. But without more distributors onboard to offer up numbers and no standards in data collecting it’s still a steep uphill climb towards transparency. Read More »

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Sundance: Cinetic Media Hires Marketing Wiz Ryan Werner

By | Tuesday January 14, 2014 @ 11:53am PST
Mike Fleming

RYANWERNEREXCLUSIVE: Cinetic Media has hired longtime indie film marketing and publicity exec Ryan Werner, giving him the title of Senior Executive. Werner takes the post after working New York and building campaigns for indie films for the past 17 years. The move was confirmed by Cinetic founder John Sloss. He said that this doesn’t presage a further move into distribution by PDA, which does multi-platform releasing of a film per year (last year was the unauthorized Disney theme park-shot Escape From Tomorrow). Rather, Werner comes aboard to provide an extra set of services in a company designed to find ways for its clients and films to exploit a changing marketplace. Marketing savvy is just one part of that. Read More »

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John Sloss Posts ‘Escape From Tomorrow’ VOD Revenues; Dares Rivals To Do Same

By | Monday October 28, 2013 @ 9:15am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: John Sloss, whose Producers Distribution Agency is releasing the provocative unauthorized Disney World-shot Escape From Tomorrow, reports that in its first two weeks, the film grossed $139,334 in theatrical revenues — and $120,560 in VOD/digital grosses — for a total take of $259,894. VOD, he said, was $55,000 and broadband revenue was $65,000. Now, that’s chump change for a studio release, but groundbreaking in that Sloss even volunteered it. Unless it’s after the fact on a triumph like Margin Call or Arbitrage, it feels like most multi-platform distributors would sooner give out the numbers to their personal bank accounts than timely VOD grosses. It makes my job reporting specialty box office an incomplete exercise, because VOD/digital revenues play a bigger role on the specialty film release circuit every year. Distributors say their films clean up on cable and broadband, but there is no reliable mechanism for timely tally on VOD revenues the way there is on theatricals.

Related: Fantastic Fest: Can Disney-Set ‘Escape From Tomorrow’ Succeed If The Mouse Won’t Roar?

Sloss, who is on both sides of the coin in that his Cinetic Media brokers film distribution deals and PDA does multi-platform releasing on films like the Banksy documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop, has issued a challenge to his rivals: cough up the numbers as they get from cable companies, iTunes and other revenue providers, and create a level of transparency that shows what VOD really means to the bottom lines of prestige films.

“We are calling upon those distributors who have been pioneers of the day-and-date evolution to supply Cinetic with their cable and broadband VOD grow numbers,” Cinetic said in a statement. “When combined with the readily available theatrical gross numbers, it will enable us to post ‘Multi-Screen Grosses’ by Monday of each week. This service is designed to help filmmakers make more informed choices when deciding between more traditional theatrical scenarios and day and date releases.”

Right now, my specialty box office report leaves me with theatrical release givens like screen count, per screen average and total gross. The VOD numbers are anybody’s guess, even though they probably often dwarf theatrical revenue on day-and-date and ultra-VOD releases; there, theaters often won’t play those films at all, or not through the traditional revenue split system deals between distributors and theaters. That means distribs have to “four wall” theaters, or essentially rent the screens for a set fee.

“There are a group of distributors that are increasingly moving toward day-and-date releases,” Sloss told me. “There must be a reason they’re doing that. They know it. There’s no reason why filmmakers and financiers shouldn’t know it as well. Rather than just making a decision based on faith, they should be able to do just like the distributor is doing by making decisions based on information. It’s time for that statistics to be known. It should have happened immediately when distributors moved from pure theatrical to day and date because it is the functional equivalent to theatrical box office.” Read More »

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PDA Signs On To Release SXSW Winning Docu ‘Brooklyn Castle’

By | Thursday July 19, 2012 @ 8:30am PDT
Mike Fleming

Brooklyn Castle MovieEXCLUSIVE: Producers Distribution Agency has signed on to release the SXSW Audience Award-winning documentary Brooklyn Castle. PDA is the releasing arm hatched by Cinetic Media’s John Sloss and Bart Walker that selectively takes on art house fare. Brooklyn Castle marks its fourth release, after the successful docus Senna and Exit Through The Gift Shop and the Emilio Estevez-directed drama The WayBrooklyn Castle will be released October 19, and once again, Abramorama’s Richard Abramowitz and Bond Strategy’s Marc Schiller will guide the marketing and distribution of the Katie Dallamaggiore-directed film. Read More »

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SUNDANCE: Cinetic Annual Bash Gone?

By | Wednesday January 18, 2012 @ 7:59pm PST

A high point of Sundance’s annual party circuit – Cinetic’s Monday night bash at Zoom on Main Street — is apparently off. Insiders tell me that unless a last-minute sponsor comes forward, the party “likely” won’t be held. Sad, because it regularly brought out Sundance Film Festival heavy hitters while head John Sloss held impromptu meetings with distribution heads upstairs. It was a standing-room-only affair with crowds packing the sidewalk and waiting to get in. The end of an era…

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Emilio Estevez’s ‘The Way’ Finds Distribution

Mike Fleming

When Emilio Estevez launched The Way at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, reaction was encouraging for the film he directed and which stars his father, Martin Sheen, as a grieving dad who walks The Camino de Santiago to honor his dead son. The movie’s good, but it is also the kind of well-intentioned picture that often slips through the cracks. Estevez has found a way to  escape the straight-to-DVD fate that befalls many such films. He and Elixir Films’ David Alexanian have partnered with John Sloss and Bart Walker’s Producers Distribution Agency and Trevor Drinkwater’s ARC Entertainment to open the film exclusively in AMC Theaters in 15 markets on Oct. 7 for its first week, before broadening to 15 markets the following week and then expanding to 500 screens across the country.

The release will be overseen by a team of distribution vets that includes Dennis Rice, Richard Abramowitz and Cynthia Swartz. Appropriate for a film about a road trip, Estevez and Sheen will conduct a bus tour for eight weeks prior to the film’s wide release to drum up awareness. They’ll be gassing up the bus for a late August start.

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Millennium Buying ‘Bernie’ With Jack Black

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: A deal is near for Millennium Entertainment to acquire U.S. distribution rights to the Los Angeles Film Festival opening-night pic Bernie. I’m told that it will be the first significant grab for former Film Department co-head Mark Gill since he took the reins of Avi Lerner’s company (UPDATE: reps for the company claim Gill was not involved, though he released Linklater’s Before Sunrise while running Warner Independent, and those reps said the deal was made by  Millennium Entertainment’s Bill Lee and Vincent Scordino). The minimum guarantee will be around $2 million with a P&A commitment of around $1 million and the deal should be done by Monday.

Inspired by a true story, the film stars Jack Black as the title character, an amiable funeral director who kills a rich widow (Shirley MacLaine) and creates a ruse that she’s still alive. Matthew McConaughey also stars in a film that’s directed by Richard Linklater. He directed Black in School of Rock and McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. Pic’s a coproduction between Mandalay Vision and Wind Dancer. Cinetic’s John Sloss and WME Global’s Graham Taylor are making the deal. Another deal is in the offing for Canada, putting the North American rights in the $3 million range. The deal certainly helps the LAFF as a showcase for acquisitions, which always helps a festival seem viable.

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CANNES: Oscilloscope Acquires ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’

Mike Fleming

Oscilloscope Laboratories has acquired North American distribution rights to We Need to Talk About Kevin, the Lynne Ramsay-directed pic that was a competition film at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Oscilloscope will release the film in the winter, with an awards campaign.

The acquisition was made from Luc Roeg’s Independent Film Company. The film got mixed reaction at the festival, not surprising considering its subject matter. Basically, it is a thriller revolving around parents (John C. Reilly and Tilda Swinton) who have to grapple the with ramifications of a heinous act committed by their evil 15-year-old son (Ezra Miller). Oscilloscope head Adam Yauch called the film “the most intense thriller I’ve seen since Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.” Deal was brokered by Cinetic’s Bart Walker and John Sloss. Ramsay wrote the script with Rory Stewart Kinnear from the Lionel Shriver novel.

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Sundance: Focus Features Acquires ‘Pariah,’ Buys Filmmaker’s Next Project

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Focus Features has closed an acquisition deal for worldwide rights for Pariah, the Dee Rees-directed coming of age story of a 17-year old African American teen from Brooklyn trying to find her place in the world, and coming to terms with her identity as a lesbian. Besides the acquisition, Focus has also engaged Rees to write another script with an eye for her to direct. The deal was in the seven figure range.

The film, which stars Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Kim Wayans, Charles Parnell and Aasha Davis, created much buzz since its premiere last Thursday at the Eccles Theatre. It is a handle-with-care first film, but it showed enough promise that Rees has been courted by agents since the film’s premiere and many feel she will be an emerging artistic voice. The picture was exec produced by indie icon Spike Lee, and produced by Nekisa Cooper. John Sloss and Bart Walker at Cinetic Media and attorney Victoria Cook closed the deal with Focus’ Avy Eschenasy. At least two other suitors were also in the mix. It is the first deal at the festival for Focus, which last year acquired The Kids Are All Right, the Lisa Cholodenko-directed feature which became a breakout indie hit, grossing over $20 million domestic and nearing $30 million worldwide. The film this week received four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture.

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