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Phase 4 Films: Seeking Content With An Eye on the Bottom Line

Phase 4 Films: Seeking Content With An Eye on the Bottom Line

“One of the advantages to closing Peace Arch is that we acquired new financing, and we now have a clean slate with a line of credit with which we’re actively looking for new content,” Phase 4 Films’ Barry Meyerowitz told indieWIRE last month during the Toronto International Film Festival. The upstart Canadian-based film company (with operations in the U.S.) is the latest incarnation for Meyerowitz, who started working for TV company Telegenic, followed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and later Peace Arch Entertainment, a consortium half owned by ContentFilm that was formed in 2008. The group concentrated on DVD operations in the U.S., but a scandal that led to the arrest of Peace Arch’s head eventually spelled doom for the company.

“From a Friday we went from being Peace Arch to a Monday being Phase 4,” said Meyerowitz, who added that the name reflects his latest manifestation working in the industry, adding that he expects it to be the lasting final phase. Unlike Peace Arch, Phase 4 is operated as a private company “without the restrictions of a public company,” said Meyerowitz. The core business of Phase 4, which employs 35 people in Toronto and 23 in the U.S., including operations in Los Angeles and South Carolina, is its DVD component, though Meyerowitz stressed that Phase 4 is also looking to do theatrical releases when it makes sense.

“What we’re very good at is DVD. We’re one of the leading independent DVD distributors at Walmart, and we’re one of the very few independent DVD distributors that provide content directly to the [retailer],” said Meyerowitz, adding that the group has been providing DVD to Walmart “for about a year.”

This past April, ContentFilm announced that it sold its entire North American home entertainment operations, including its 50% interest in Peace Arch Home Entertainment to the consortium led by Berry Meyerowitz who runs the company with the existing management team under the Phase 4 banner, with ContentFilm maintaining a 22.5% minority stake in the new venture. While its Canadian operations are “mature,” according to Meyerowitz, the company is looking south of its border for growth.

“We are looking for films for U.S. and Canadian distribtuion [but] our entire growth prosepect is in the U.S. and that’s where we’re focusing our efforts.”

Phase 4 released Matt Tyrnauer’s “Valentino: The Last Emperor” theatrically in Canada, and is handling DVD rights there and in the U.S. They also released Kari Skogland’s “Fifty Dead Men Walking” in the U.S., though Meyerowitz said they were disappointed by its box office. Originally the group had planned on a more ambitious slate of theatrical releases, but it has since tempered that initial goal.

“The idea was to do one theatrical film per month, but that proved too difficult,” said Meyerowitz. “The challenge is finding a title, and then the process of negotiation to actual distribution is very long. So now, I’d like to have one per quarter.”

Phase 4, like other companies with an eye on DVD, said a theatrical release, however small, augments the later home entertainment release.

Though Meyerowitz stressed Phase 4 continues to look for new content, they also want to show producers their knack for shepherding titles through a profitable run.

“We’re being patient and want to show the producers that when we do get a film, we’re all focused on that film – the entire company. Sometimes once a film is acquired they never see the company heads again. But that’s not so with us, we’re all committed to the film across the board.”

Meyerowitz told iW that in addition to “Valentino” as well as “Naked Ambition” – described as “an R-rated film about an X-rated industry – Phase 4 will be keeping an eye out for thrillers and other films that “tug at the strings and keep you on the edge of your seat.”

Phase 4 Films will be attending the upcoming AFM, Sundance and other festivals.

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