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No Gay Bailout? TLA Changes Course

Indiewire By Brian Brooks | Indiewire April 29, 2009 at 10:2AM

TLA is undertaking a major restructuring of its theatrical distribution arm, TLA Entertainment, a move that continues a trend of changes in specialty film distribution that began well over a year ago. The moves are aimed at making TLA a smaller, more focused distribution company, an executive said today.
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TLA is undertaking a major restructuring of its theatrical distribution arm, TLA Entertainment, a move that continues a trend of changes in specialty film distribution that began well over a year ago. The moves are aimed at making TLA a smaller, more focused distribution company, an executive said today.

The company plans to sell or license its library of 200 gay, horror and international titles from its TLA Releasing U.S. label for DVD, TV and VOD. Additionally, TLA will take steps to hire a sales organization or take on a partnership to release films the company still has in the pipeline, including "Chef’s Special," (Spain, 2008), "Shank" (UK, 2009), and "Redwoods" (US, 2009). TLA has also unveiled a recent pick, "Make the Yuletide Gay" by Rob Williams, which will also be released under the new plan once it's finalized. The feature will also be its final acquisition for "a little while," according to the company's head of production & development, Derek Curl. With the shift, TLA will lay off two employees in its 17 person operation.

"The overall view is to respond to the marketplace, which is to pare down the operation to a competitive size to allow us to be in the business," Curl told indieWIRE Wednesday afternoon. "[This includes] a smaller staff and a strategic focus on titles as well as becoming more active earlier in with the process [with an eye on] director, script, actors. The goal is to become a smarter distributor." Curl told indieWIRE the company will exclusively focus on English-language gay content.

On the changes to the library Curl added, "We're looking to sell or license the library and [move away] from the old model we've been working with. It's been good for a number of years, but now we want a clean slate... With the number of DVD stores falling precipitously and the rise of online distribution, it's made us reconsider how we go about doing business."

TLA's Curl also said that cultural shifts and wider coverage of gay film has also demanded that the market evolve to more sophisticated tastes in order to attract audiences. "I think the market is correcting itself. With mainstream media being more inclusionary, it raises the bar of quality when people look to buy gay genre fare, so going to see [just any] gay coming-out story at [New York's] Quad Theater isn't as appealing as five years ago," he said, "It puts pressure on the filmmaker to up the production quality, the script quality and acting quality."

Curl even speculated the shakedown may usher in a new age for gay cinema. "The less quality films will fall away and the true quality genre of gay films will really emerge." He continued, saying that today there are select group of gay filmmakers that he sees rising to the top and perhaps leading the way to a new era for the genre. "Maybe this group can usher in a new golden age of gay cinema which has been missing in recent years."

In a related note, TLA will continue to produce the annual Philadelphia Q Film Festival, which will take place July 9 - 20 this year. Founded in 1981, TLA Entertainment owns and operates the DVD retail Web sites TLAvideo.com and TLAraw.com as well as the video-on-demand website, TLAondemand.com.