Since Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner acquired Landmark Theaters and then Magnolia Pictures (not to mention tapping Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente to oversee their digital film prodution arm), they have been the talk of the indie scene. We wrote about Cuban and Wagner’s plans for a “vertically-integrated” company back in January and the duo gained wider awareness this week thanks to a piece in The New York Times.
When we first wrote about Cuban and Wagner’s plans for a vertical company owning production, distribution and exhibition, a number of people whispered their concerns, but adopted a wait and see attitude. After much of Landmark Theaters’ management left this spring, the speculation grew louder, culminating in Sony Classics co-president Tom Bernard’s comments in the NY Times’ this week, saying, “Landmark is a ‘missing element in the matrix of distribution.'” He added, “If movies like ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ and ‘The Fog of War’ and films without distribution are taken off the booking list, that’s going to be a real blow to the specialty marketplace. It is a very scary prospect.”
It is certainly not clear that Landmark is moving in that direction, but as the company rolls out a plan to convert its venues to digital sites, Cuban and Wagner have indicated that they intend to open the doors to a wider range of movies. That could be great news for filmmakers (or distributors) who don’t have large amounts of P & A money to put behind their releases. Could that be what the indie establishment is worried about?
Cuban and Wagner seem content to shake things up and question the way business is done, and as Wagner said during a panel at SXSW back in March, “(Our) angle is (that) high definition and digital distribution are changing the way (films) get made, promoted and distributed. He added, “If anyone understands the frustrations, if anyone understands the good and the bad I’d like to think I do — because I am an outsider as well.”