Financial entrepreneur Gabriel Hammond started things off at the fledgling distribution company Broad Green he launched with his brother Daniel by falling into the Terrence Malick
business. When he was exploring Cannes in 2014, he saw a promo for the documentary that the Texas filmmaker has been working on for the last 25 years, “Voyage of Time.” Hammond stepped into the U.S. gap financing, and took an option on distribution, which at the time Broad Green wasn’t yet set up to do. “We said, ‘We’ll finance this and get the first right to distribute if such a thing exists,'” Hammond told me at Cannes 2015, “and that really opened the door for us to develop a relationship with Terry and his producers, and talk creatively about how we want to market that movie and do things differently. I love Terry because he’s so collaborative.”
That led to a deal to release Malick’s next three films. First up in 2016 is “Knight of Cups
,” which debuted at Berlin to a mixed response. Set in Los Angeles, the movie stars Christian Bale
as a jaded screenwriter still in love with his ex-wife (Cate Blanchett) who gets involved with many beautiful women, including Natalie Portman, Frieda Pinto, Imogen Poots, Isabel Lucas, and Teresa Palmer; Wes Bentley plays his brother and Brian Dennehy his father.
Rather than go out in December during the awards corridor, Broad Green decided to go in the new year. “We want to have the longest run possible,” said Gabriel Hammond, “not for money’s sake, but so we can get as many people to share the experience.” They’re opening the movie on March 4, 2016.
Gabriel and Daniel Hammond have been ramping up a slate of pictures and are adding two more to their 2015 release schedule.
In March they announced the pickup of Adam Salky’s “I Smile Back,” a Sundance Dramatic Competition entry starring Sarah Silverman as a depressed suburban wife and mother who is acting out with reckless behavior. Josh Charles co-stars. The drama will open on Oct. 23, 2015.
They also acquired James Napier Robinson’s award-winning New Zealand chess drama “The Dark Horse,” starring Cliff Curtis and James Rollerston, which they will release at the height of the crowded award season (Dec. 11, 2015), where they risk either getting acclaimed or ignored. “The Dark Horse” is based on the life of chess champion Genesis Potini who despite his own struggles finds purpose by passing his gift to the children of his community.
Last fall Broad Green made a splash at the Toronto Film Festival by opening a hospitality suite and going on a buying spree, scooping up (and probably overpaying for) French immigration drama “Samba” (July 24), which reunites Cesar-winner Omar Sy with the filmmakers behind specialty hit “The Intouchables,” Ramin Bahrani’s well-reviewed real estate thriller “99 Homes” (September 25), a two-hander starring Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield, and Mia Hansen-Love’s French 90s electronic-music drama “Eden,” which is their first release, opening June 19 in New York and L.A., followed by San Francisco and Miami.
Spanish-language trans-Atlantic romance “10,000 Km,” which opened July 10 after playing the festival circuit. Broad Green won the Sundance 2015 bidding war for Ken Kwapis’s Robert Redford vehicle “A Walk in the Woods,” which they had to commit to take out wide this fall (September 2) to at least 1,000 screens.
This year the Hammonds attended Cannes with a full team trawling the festival and market looking at promo reels and potential acquisitions and production opportunities: they nabbed U.S. rights to “Lincoln Lawyer” director Brad Furman’s drug drama “Infiltrator,” starring Bryan Cranston and Diane Kruger, set for 2016 release.
So far the Broad Green release roster is strictly specialty films. But the Hammonds also hope to put out six to ten mid-budgeted films (around $25 to $75 million) a year on more than 2500 screens with some $20 to $50 million committed to prints and ads. They’ll be chasing the usual mix of genre, action-thriller, and big-budget comedies, including female-driven and urban.
In the current competitive market climate, the Hammonds realize that they have to produce their own films. So far they’ve financed Isabel Coixet’s drama “Learning to Drive,” starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley (August 21) and sibling sports drama “Break Point,” starring Jeremy Sisto (September 5). In the works is Lucy Walker’s sequel to Wim Wenders and Ry Cooder’s classic Cuba music doc, “Buena Vista Social Club.”
One movie that they paid for they will not release. They are closing a deal with another distributor for uber-violent “Green Room,” which director Jeremy Saulnier (“Blue Ruin”) convinced them to allow him to play at Cannes in Director’s Fortnight, where it was well-reviewed.
Building a distribution machine is a major undertaking that burns a lot of cash before seeing much in the way of returns. The deep-pocketed brothers have been hiring seasoned professionals such as Screenvision distribution exec Travis Reid, Warner Bros. publicity exec Adam Keen, eOne acquisitions exec Dylan Wiley, and media exec Gail Heaney, who like Nickerson comes from Summit; they’re not messing around. Since September 2014 they have jumped from ten employees to 65 in NY and LA, and could reach 90 by the fall, they estimate.
For international, Broad Green recently bought a 45% stake in David Garrett’s British foreign sales company Mr. Smith, which adds 15 additional people in London. “He’s got an equal passion for the big stuff and small stuff,” said Gabriel. “At DreamWorks, he just sold ‘The BFG’ for Spielberg. Likewise, he likes doing ‘Buena Vista Social Club.’ He’s got a passion for both. Nothing’s too big or too small for him to handle.” While the Hammonds want to run everything from VOD through DVDs through the company with consistent marketing, they’ve opted not to create their own home video distribution from scratch.
For the home video side of their business, Broad Green has turned to Universal Pictures Home Entertainment to handle their films (some produced, some acquired) via a long term, multi-year distribution services agreement. Rather than Broad Green grow their own home video division, Universal will exclusively manage back-room distribution services for all Broad Green titles for Blu-ray and DVD; Broad Green will continuing to handle sales and marketing across all platforms. Broad Green is planning to release up to 16 specialty and wide release films per year, both theatrically and on VOD.