Consolidation and Cutbacks Hit NYC Companies: Artisan, Cowboy and mPRm
by Eugene Hernandez
While the studio specialty divisions and other protestors have been battling the screener ban over the past few weeks, a number of New York independent film companies have been quietly facing cutbacks and consolidation. Lions Gate and Artisan are reportedly set to announce a merger this week, while Cowboy Pictures has closed its doors and P.R. firm mPRm is shutting its New York office.
Lions Gate Gets Artisan
Lions Gate Entertainment is set to announce its acquisition of Artisan Entertainment, according to press reports this week. Variety indicated on Tuesday that Artisan chief Amir Malin would leave the company as part of the deal. Neither company has announced the pact and no information on future staffing has been released. A Lions Gate rep declined comment on Wednesday and an Artisan rep had no additional information.
Concerns about overlap between the two companies have raised fears of job cuts. Lions Gate Entertainment, which releases movies through Lions Gate Films, is based in Los Angeles and Canadian cities. Its upcoming releases include "Shattered Glass," "The Girl With a Pearl Earring" and "The Cooler." Artisan, with offices in Los Angeles and New York, maintains a 3,000 title film library, including such indie films as "Step Into Liquid," "Buena Vista Social Club," "The Blair Witch Project," and "Pi."
Cowboy Shuts Down
After six years in business, Cowboy Pictures has closed its doors. The New York based indie distribution company, which was founded by John Vanco and Noah Cowan, recently let go of its employees and last week filed for bankruptcy. Greg Williams and his Lot 47 team joined Cowboy at its Laight St. offices this summer and he remains with Lot 47 following a split with Vanco and Cowboy.
"We've had a great run and I'm extremely proud of the wonderful films we've brought to audiences across North America," said Vanco. "Cowboy could have never grown into a full fledged company without the efforts of many talented people, and I wish to take this opportunity to salute my former partner Noah Cowan and the talented and passionate employees who worked with us, especially Julie Fontaine, Emily Gannett and Sarah Finklea."
In a brief conversation with indieWIRE on Tuesday, Greg Williams indicated that Lot 47 remains "active and in business" at the Laight St. office, but he directed inquiries regarding Cowboy activities to Vanco. In Tuesday's announcement, Vanco indicated that he will detail additional plans in the coming weeks.
Cowboy Pictures had planned to release Elliot Greenebaum's "Assisted Living," which won awards at the Slamdance, Gen Art and Woodstock festivals. In a conversation with indieWIRE on Tuesday, the film's producer Alex Laskey indicated that he and Greenebaum are pursuing other distribution options for the movie. The film will screen this Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at the Hamptons International Film Festival on Long Island, New York.
The company (originally known as Cowboy Booking International) has released more than 40 titles, including "Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns)," the recent "Movern Callar" and "The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition." Cowboy's library of nearly 400 movies includes most of the key work of Akira Kurosawa, D.A. Pennebaker, and Ingmar Bergman. Cowan left the company last year and later was involved with the formation of the Global Film Initiative.
mPRm Trims Operations
Changes have also occurred in New York's P.R. community. Citing increasing competition and high-costs, bi-coastal publicity company mPRm recently announced that it is closing its New York office. David Klineberg, Sara Finmann and others are leaving the company, while John Murphy has already exited the outfit. The firm is one of the leading outfits for independent and specialty film public relations.
Jessica Manzi from in New York is moving to the Los Angeles office. The company will remain anchored in Los Angeles, where it is headed by Mark Pogachefsky. Laura Kim, a senior exec in mPRm's LA office recently left the company to take a top post at Warner Independent Pictures.
The mPRm move comes on the heels of the recent closure of Reid Rosefelt's Magic Lantern Public Relations. Rosefelt remains in the biz handling a few clients himself and he also recently directed a short film.
Some Growth Seen
"Please tell me your story ends with good news," one recently laid off New York staffer told indieWIRE on Tuesday. Indeed there have been some slightly promising developments.
A minor expansion seen in the city of late is the addition of a New York office by Bumble Ward and Associates. Ward has named Dan Blau to lead the NYC office. "As we are experiencing a very busy fall, with a lot of client activity in New York (junkets, photo shoots and so on), we felt that it would be beneficial to have someone actually on the ground in New York," Bumble Ward told indieWIRE on Wednesday. Blau made the move East to set up shop for the company.
Additionally, over the summer P.R. vet Jeanne Berney and a team from Rogers & Cowan split off to join forces with P & F Communications. The Berney Group/P & F Communications has set up shop in Manhattan repping many film clients.