EXCLUSIVE: A week before Sundance, Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road Films is strengthening its film acquisition team by hiring Peter Lawson and giving him the newly created title of executive vice president of Productions and Acquisitions. Lawson is a top-flight acquisitions exec who served stints most recently at The Weinstein Company and before that Miramax. He left to get a taste of production experience in big-sized studio films by joining Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road as production president.
After two years, I’m hearing that he has shaken up his career GPS and is taking the exit from Thunder Road onto Open Road. Before he left TWC, Lawson worked on such films as the John Hillcoat-directed Lawless, The Iron Lady, The Company Men, Blue Valentine, The Intouchables and the docus Undefeated, Bully and The Tillman Story. At Miramax, his acquisition deals included The Diving Bell And The Butterfly. Before that at First Look Pictures, he bought Chopper and Hillcoat’s The Proposition.
Lawson takes the job after wrapping the Keanu Reeves-starrer John Wick, on which he is exec producer for Thunder Road. There, he set up remakes of the French organized crime thriller Gang Story, the French crime thriller 36 and an Arash Amel-scripted film about Marie Colvin based on the Marie Brenner Vanity Fair article. Awaiting confirmation from Open Road but expect Lawson to once again be a familiar face in Park City.
BREAKING: Open Road Films has made a first look distribution agreement to release select IM Global titles in the U.S. Open Road CEO made Tom Ortenberg and IM Global CEO Stuart Ford made the deal. This comes after the two companies worked together on the hit A Haunted House last January. The sequel comes in March.
“Stuart Ford and his partners at Reliance Entertainment have built a formidable business and reputation with great projects under their belt and many more in the pipeline,” stated Ortenberg. “We’ve had success together on A Haunted House and are looking forward to more great things in the future.”
Said Ford, “Open Road has established itself as a pre-eminent mini-major in the U.S. distribution arena and it will be a privilege for many of our forthcoming releases to be handled by Tom Ortenberg and his team.”
BREAKING: Open Road Films CEO Tom Ortenberg has re-upped for another four years through 2018, solidifying the distribution company. Ortenberg founded Open Road in 2011, backed by theater chains AMC and Regal. The move comes after Open Road extended its $100 million credit facility and set premium pay TV deals through Showtime and Netflix. Ortenberg’s deal was to scheduled to expire next year. “Working with AMC and Regal to establish Open Road Films — and growing the company over the past two and a half years — has been the most satisfying and exhilarating experience of my career,” Ortenberg said in a statement. “I could not be more proud of the job our team has done so far and I am looking forward to the future with great excitement.”
In Ortenberg, AMC and Regal got a savvy pro to launch a company designed to acquire and distribute wide release fare. Ortenberg previously served top posts at The Weinstein Company and Lionsgate. Open Road finds itself in an interesting position, given that one of its main wide release rivals, FilmDistrict, is being folded into Focus Features with the ascension of Peter Schlessel to take over the Universal-based prestige film label. It is unclear how that will impact competition, but even if Focus does more genre fare it gives Open Road room to breathe. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Following on the heels of the exit of veteran distribution executive Bob Berney, FilmDistrict CEO Peter Schlessel has made alternative distribution arrangements for the company’s 2012 film releases. Deadline has learned that Schlessel just closed a 3-picture distribution deal with Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road, and he has arranged for several other pictures to be released through Sony.
Open Road will release Escape From M.S. One (formerly called Lock-Out), the Luc Besson-produced sci-fi actioner that stars Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace and will be released April 20, 2012. Open Road will also release the Red Dawn remake that is slated for November 2, 2012. The third film hasn’t been firmed yet and there could be more business with Open Road down the line.
FilmDistrict will also rely on its partnership with Sony Pictures for some of the films. That includes the Rian Johnson-directed time travel drama Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, which will be released through TriStar. Sony will also release the Evil Dead remake that’s being re-imagined by Ghost House Pictures. It is entirely possible that FilmDistrict will return to distributing projects by the time it gets Only God Forgives, the Nicolas Winding Refn-directed drama with Ryan Gosling, or the Chuck Russell-directed Arabian Nights starring Liam Hemsworth. The interim move was made to give Schlessel time to figure out a long term strategy.
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EXCLUSIVE: QED International and Safehouse Pictures have set Brian De Palma to direct the Joby Harold-scripted thriller The Key Man. That film was recently set for U.S. distribution with Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road Films and will begin production by year’s end. QED is financing the movie, about a single father who’s targeted by U.S. government agents because his body contains answers to important national secrets. The style is a throwback to paranoid 70s movies like Three Days of the Condor and Marathon Man. The Key Man will be produced by Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Tory Tunnell and Harold. Harold’s recent script work includes Awake, Army of the Dead and All You Need Is Kill. De Palma, who was part of that paranoid 70s thriller movement, last directed the 2007 Iraq drama Redacted and before that The Black Dahlia. He’s also responsible for Scarface, The Untouchables, Carrie and Mission: Impossible. De Palma’s repped by ICM.
In a surprise development, Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road has set the Joe Carnahan-directed killer wolf pack thriller The Grey to open wide on Jan. 27. Now, that puts the movie beyond the Oscars. But I’m told that Open Road has left open the possibility that the film could get a qualifying run in two theaters before year’s end so that Liam Neeson would qualify for the Best Actor category. I must say I am a bit surprised that the qualifying run isn’t an automatic. Buyers who watched the movie and bid on it in July before Open Road won it — paying near $8 million and a $25 million P&A commitment for U.S. rights — all hailed Neeson’s performance as Oscar bait. The deal was based on watching 30 minutes of scenes, but word was that opening this year, even just to qualify, was a priority for the sellers and a reason some distributors with full Oscar-season skeds shied away. Neeson plays the leader of a group of oil drillers who struggle to survive in the wilds of Alaska after their plane crashes smack in the middle of a territorial rogue wolf pack. Carnahan won’t finish the film in time to show it at Telluride, Toronto or the New York Film Festival, but they will get enough feedback from advance screenings to make a decision about whether it’s ready to wage an Oscar campaign for Neeson, who was nominated once in his career for Schindler’s List and has enjoyed a leading man resurgence thanks to Taken. Here is Open Road’s official announcement about the date: Read More »
Deadline told you last Friday that upstart distributor Open Road would close a big deal for U.S. distribution rights to The Grey, Joe Carnahan’s thriller about a group of oil drillers whose plane crashes in Alaska, smack in the middle of the hunting grounds of a territorial rogue wolf pack. This happened after a 30-minute compilation of scenes was shown last week to distributors. Open Road, which Tom Ortenberg started early this year with backing from AMC and Regal, just confirmed the deal. I’d heard the distributor paid near the $8 million minimum guarantee asked by the sellers, with a $25 million P&A commitment and a gross corridor built into one of the pricier recent deals for a finished film. None of that’s in the release, nor is the release date. Open Road launches its first film, the Jason Statham-starrer The Killer Elite, on September 23, and I’ve heard The Grey will be released in time for Oscar season (Liam Neeson turns in a strong performance), which was part of the ask by the sellers. Here’s the official announcement:
LOS ANGELES, CA, July 19, 2011 – Open Road Films has acquired the U.S. rights to the highly anticipated, action-packed survival thriller, THE GREY, directed by Joe Carnahan (A-Team, Smokin’ Aces, Narc) and starring Liam Neeson, from Liddell Entertainment. The announcement was made today by Tom Ortenberg, CEO of Open Road Films and Mickey Liddell, CEO of Liddell Entertainment.
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EXCLUSIVE: Based on a 30-minute reel being shown to distributors as we speak, bidding is getting hot and heavy on The Grey, the Joe Carnahan-directed drama about an oil-drilling team struggling to survive in the wilds of Alaska after their plane crashes smack in the middle of a territorial rogue wolf pack. Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, James Badge Dale, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Nonso Anozie and Joe Anderson star in the film. CAA is shopping the Scott Free-produced pic, and I’ve heard that Warner Bros, Open Road, Summit, Lionsgate, The Weinstein Company and FilmDistrict are all in the mix.
The movie’s had heat on it since CAA showed a three-minute reel right after the Cannes Film Festival. The ask is in the $8 million range minimum guarantee and a release upwards of 3000 screens and the deal will certainly be in the seven-figures based on what I’ve heard about the footage. But the bidding is complicated by one thing: the filmmakers are insisting that The Grey be released later this year. It makes sense for a cold-weather film that has a Neeson performance that could be in the Oscar mix. And the film is ready to build buzz that starts with festivals like Toronto. The complication is, several of the distributors have crowded late-year release schedules. This could give an edge to a distributor like Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road, which is looking for exactly this kind of wide-release film. Read More »
Well, now we know that Open Road is for real. The upstart distribution company run by Tom Ortenberg and funded by theater chains Regal and AMC have made a streaming deal with Netflix that will begin with its first film, Killler Elite, with Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro. Here’s the announcement:
Los Angeles, CA, June 28, 2011 – Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Open Road Films today announced a multi-year agreement to bring movies distributed theatrically by Open Road Films exclusively to Netflix for digital streaming in the “pay TV window,” after their release on DVD. The deal will allow Netflix members to instantly watch OpenRoad Films titles on various devices streaming from Netflix.
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EXCLUSIVE: Open Road, the upstart distribution company formed by theater chains AMC and Regal, is making its second big acquisition. Tom Ortenberg’s company is acquiring domestic distribution rights to The Host, the Andrew Niccol-directed adaptation of Twilight Saga author Stephenie Meyer’s novel. I’m told that the there were at least three other distributors trying to get this and that the deal will be a seven-figure minimum guarantee, a healthy P&A commitment, and gross for participants that include the author.
Saoirse Ronan is set to play heroine Melanie Stryder, one of the last humans putting up a fight against an alien species called Souls, parasites that invade human bodies, fuse to each person’s consciousness and systematically erase their personalities. Melanie is captured by the aliens and implanted by a Soul called Wanderer. While Wanderer’s goal is to get Melanie to give up the remaining pockets of humans, the alien finds Melanie to be unique in her unwillingness to surrender her consciousness. Wanderer is so overwhelmed by Melanie’s memories and feelings that she is driven to reconnect with Melanie’s old life, which includes falling for Melanie’s boyfriend. The result is a complex, romantic and emotional human/alien love triangle. Nick Wechsler, Meyer, Paula Mae Schwartz and Steve Schwartz are producing. Inferno’s Marc Butan, Jim Seibel and Bill Johnson are exec producers and Roger Schwartz is co-producer. Read More »
Open Road Films, the recently launched theatrical distribution company from exhibitors AMC and Regal, has signed a multiyear agreement with Universal Studios Home Entertainment to handle all marketing, sales and distribution services for Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms of Open Road’s titles. The first film to be covered in the deal is also Open Road’s first film: Killer Elite, the actioner starring Jason Statham, Robert De Niro and Clive Owen that will be released Sept. 23. The announcement of the home entertainment deal was made today by Open Road CEO Tom Ortenberg and USHE president Craig Kornblau.
Open Road, the distribution company hatched earlier this year by theater chains AMC and Regal with Tom Ortenberg at the helm, has set its first release. Open Road set a September 23, 2011 date for Killer Elite, the Gary McKendry-directed action thriller that stars Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro. The fact-based thriller is about an ex-special ops agent (Statham) lured out of retirement to rescue his mentor (De Niro). To do it, he must lay waste to three assassins with a cunning leader (Owen). The film was financed by Omnilab Media and produced through its Australian production arm Ambience Entertainment. Inferno is selling it around the world.
Open Road, the new distribution company launched by theater chains AMC and Regal to find films that can play in wide release, has made its first major deal as Tom Ortenberg closed U.S. rights to the action film Killer Elite, which stars Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro. Here’s the official announcement:
Cannes, May 11, 2011 – Open Road Films has acquired all U.S. distribution rights to Omnilab Media’s film Killer Elite, an action thriller starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro and directed by Gary McKendry. Financed by Omnilab Media, the film was produced by Michael Boughen through Omnilab’s Australian production arm, Ambience Entertainment alongside Sigurjon Sighvatsson, Steve Chasman, and Tony Winley. Killer Elite is slated for a fall 2011 release nationwide and will be the first film for the newly launched U.S. distribution venture Open Road Films.
Inspired by true events, Killer Elite is an action adventure spy film following Danny (Jason Statham), one of the world’s most skilled special-ops agents. Lured out of self-imposed exile to execute a near-impossible feat of retribution and personal salvation, Danny reassembles his old team of operatives to help rescue his former mentor (Robert DeNiro), and to penetrate the highly feared and respected military unit, the British Special Air Service (SAS). Facing off against a covert group of ex-SAS soldiers known as “The Feather Men,” who, under their leader Spike (Clive Owen), provide a deadly cloak
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Tom Ortenberg has put together his executive team for Open Road Films, the indie film distribution company launched by theater chains AMC and Regal. As Deadline told you last month, former executive vice president of Worldwide Marketing for Miramax Jason Cassidy is Open Road’s new president of marketing. Ortenberg also named Elliott Kleinberg General Counsel and exec veep of operations and business affairs, Steven Andriuzzo as chief financial officer, and Ben Cotner as senior veep of acquisitions. Deadline also reported that Liz Biber will head publicity, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.
“These key hires mean that we’re open for business,” Ortenberg told Deadline. “We’re fully operational, and we’ll be out in full force in Tribeca and Cannes shopping for new product.”
Cassidy started at Miramax in 1997. Kleinberg was COO at United Artists; Andriuzzo was at Paramount as senior veep of planning and finance for the domestic home entertainment division, and before that headed corporate finance and was Motion Picture Group controller at DreamWorks. Cotner previously served as exec director of acquisitions and co-productions at the Paramount Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group. Before that, he worked at Paramount Vantage and Paramount Classics. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Open Road is staffing up. The indie film distribution company launched by theater chains AMC and Regal with distribution veteran Tom Ortenberg in charge is in discussions with Jason Cassidy to become Open Road’s head of marketing, with Liz Biber in talks to head publicity. Ortenberg should have his team set within the next week or two, and most certainly will be up and running before Cannes.
Cassidy was executive vice president of worldwide marketing at Miramax Films under Daniel Battsek when Disney shuttered that independent shingle. He started at Miramax in 1999. Biber had also worked at Dimension Films and before that at Columbia Pictures. Most recently, she has been overseeing the campaign for the Robert Redford-directed The Conspirator for The American Film Company and Roadside Attractions.
Ortenberg launched Open Road earlier this month, and said he plans to acquire and distribute films that can play in wide release on about 2,000 screens. Ortenberg expects to release the first three films by the fall, and 8 to 10 films per year when the company is up and running. Part of the plan is for those pictures to play on screens owned by AMC and Regal, which control between 5,000 and 6,000 screens each in the United States and control about 20% of total locations in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. They are responsible for just shy of 40% of weekly theatrical business. First order of business for Ortenberg is to set his team, which will include an acquisitions executive and several … Read More »
The country’s two largest theatrical exhibition chains, AMC and Regal, this morning officially launched Open Road, a venture that will acquire and distribute films that can play in wide release on about 2000 screens. Distribution veteran Tom Ortenberg will run the company. He expects to have three pictures out starting this fall. “Once we’re up and running, we will be distributing 8 to 10 films per year, and possibly more,” Ortenberg said.
The move had been expected since the Sundance Film Festival in January. Open Road joins a crowding field of companies targeting wide-release finished films. What’s unusual here is that two theater chains are behind what Ortenberg termed a “straight content play.” The two entities control between 5,000 and 6,000 venues each in the U.S. (Regal is slightly larger) and between them are responsible for about 31% of the theaters in the U.S., doing about 45% of weekly business. Theater chains like AMC and Regal have railed as big studios continue to shrink theatrical windows on their event films. This venture gives the chains a little opportunity to push back: When those same studios supply stinkers that barely pack theaters or after their big films are mostly played out and hanging on to squeeze out those final drops of theatrical revenue, AMC and Regal can conceivably allocate screens to its own product. Just recently, AMC and Regal were among the chains that said they would not give screens to films that DirectTV wants to show on VOD four to six weeks after theatrical release.
While the largest allocation of P&A is TV commercials, Open Road product has the potential benefit of in-house promotion for films that will get at least 25% of theater penetration in AMC and Regal theaters. Ortenberg said he was unsure exactly how those promotional opportunities would manifest themselves.
“At its core, Open Road is a content play that recognizes that in many weeks of the year, AMC and Regal have excess capacity in their theaters,” Ortenberg told Deadline. “What’s better than to address this by filling those screens with great movies and stories looking for distribution? These films will be playing in all theater chains nationwide, and we will be competing for the same films that other midsize distribution companies go after. We will be an acquisitions-based company. We will not produce, we will not develop, but we are open to pre-buying from script stage or acquiring a completed film. Within those parameters, we will look for films we can acquire at an attractive price and market and distribute in a cost-effective manner to as broad an audience as possible. My experience shows those pictures will be available.” Read More »
When I was at Sundance, the buzz was about theater chains getting into the distribution game, with Tom Ortenberg at the reins. Regal Entertainment and AMC Entertainment are the chains and they are formalizing a new company to become another film buyer, per an LA Times story. Some at Sundance wondered if this was related to the push by studios to shrink theatrical windows, with the idea that if theater chains generate their own product and give it favorable treatment, it might give studios pause. Ortenberg has been mentioned for a bunch of jobs, including the idea he would take over Bill Pohlad’s Apparition, for which he was consulting after Bob Berney left. More to come.