I get it, Warner Brothers’ president Alan Horn made it very clear, Warner Brothers really has no interest in the specialty indie niche market. The folding / absorption of New Line brought in a much more lucrative, though quality-questionable, stable of young boy demographic genre-friendly suckfests, while also cutting the costs of about 500 jobs. And let’s face it, once you start saving money, cutting costs… it becomes addictive. What else is expendable? What else can we kill?
Sometimes it’s more like an endurance challenge: how little can I get by with? We’ve done it here at Film Threat, budgeting out film festival coverage in what could be considered a sado-masochistic exercise more than “financially responsible” method of operation (the lesson we learned: just because something can be done on a survival-only method, doesn’t mean it should be done). And I caution WB similarly: just because you can survive without Picturehouse and Warner Independent, it doesn’t mean you should.
What I found truly interesting about the piece, however, was the reasoning behind the shuttering of both companies as it relates to the glut of indie fare in theaters:
“Horn cited the fact that 600 pics get released annually as having made the specialty biz less attractive financially in recent year.”
Are those numbers accurate? 600 specialty pics annually? Is this counting theatrical, DVD, VOD, etc? I mean, we review about 1,000+ films per year, sure, but I wouldn’t consider the majority of those films to be anything with a significant enough release to actually affect WB in such a way as to require them to shutter two companies. Many of the films were review are on the fest circuit without representation or distribution so… where did this figure come from? The reasoning continues:
“He also said that such pics have become more likely to screen at multiplexes rather than art-house venues and expressed confidence in Warner’s distribution side to ensure that smaller films receive the proper handling.”
There were 600 specialty pics in multiplexes, really?
I understand how WB distribution enables them to work in whatever specialty flicks they do go after and market them aggressively, on par with their more blockbuster fare, but what’s the point of that? They’re specialty because they’re unique, often niche films, where the big publicity push wouldn’t properly work, do justice to or properly convey the film anyway. I think it’s a bone being thrown to the critics of this move that the WB isn’t “getting out of the indie film biz but stressed that it will still acquire and produce specialty pics,” but we all know that that’ll last about as long as the first major campaign fails to make said specialty film have a $10 million opening weekend (and I’m being conservative).
Furthermore, from a business standpoint, it seems like WB is absorbing and jettisoning, essentially making one big beast instead of a number of smaller, interconnected ones. While this makes sense from a “behemoth to conquer the world” mentality, it doesn’t leave for very much longevity or dispersement of risk. If one of the smaller companies took a hit, in the past, then it affected that smaller company primarily and WB as a satellite. Now… all guns aimed at one target, WB. If there’s a failure, the risk is all in. Isn’t this what happens right before another company comes in a buys out? Make it one easy transaction, top gets rich and all the satellite businesses don’t exist or don’t have a say?
Anyway, these are all just questions because I’m no economics major. I was never a future business leader of America, I don’t wear suits and working an average 9-5 will likely result in me wandering the Earth homeless rather than “content” in my cubicle jail. I’m a passionate film fan who gets the opportunity to share his opinions with the intarweb, and I’m sad to see Picturehouse and WIP go, and I’m just trying to figure out the logic, s’all.
Posted on May 8, 2008 in Blogs by Mark Bell
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