The team behind acclaimed films like “It Follows” and “Citizenfour” is no longer in business with Harvey Weinstein, but he still controls their company. As Tom Quinn and Jason Janego prepare to announce the name of their new distribution partnership with Alamo’s Tim League — which they launched with Michael Moore’s first film in six years, “Where To Invade Next?,” in theaters around the country — The Weinstein Co. is reconfiguring the company they left behind, three-year old multi-platform distributor RADiUS.
After Quinn and Janego left Magnolia Pictures in fall 2011 to launch autonomous boutique distributor RADiUS at TWC, they had a great run, from their first film “Bachelorette” (which scored over $8 million on VOD) and horror breakout “It Follows” (which went wide to $14 million domestic) to their last release, “Goodnight Mommy” (the Austrian Oscar submission).
Notably, they nabbed three documentary Oscar nominations (“Cutie and the Boxer”) and two wins (“Twenty Feet from Stardom” and “Citizenfour”) along the way. Those are damned hard to get. At one of several high-profile pre-Oscar parties last week, Harvey Weinstein celebrated Lady Gaga and Diane Warren’s Oscar nomination for Best Song for the RADiUS documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which eventually lost to Sam Smith’s James Bond theme.
“The Hunting Ground” Oscar campaign fulfilled, publicity executive Liza Burnett Fefferman left Weinstein’s Manhattan offices last week; Quinn and Janego’s manager of acquisitions and distribution, Jason Wald, still holds down the RADiUS fort.
Many in the industry consider the RADiUS label to be inactive; the Weinsteins released “Macbeth” themselves and Quinn and Janego’s 2012 Netflix U.S. output deal has ended. But TWC (which has its own Netflix deal) has plans for RADiUS, COO and president David Glasser told me. He is interviewing senior acquisitions executives to run the VOD division and will expand the label’s day-and-date releases into both urban and hispanic niche markets. So who will be their new digital strategist? That will reveal a great deal.
For his part, Quinn doesn’t believe that a multi-platform-only label can succeed. In an interview, Quinn said that while the Weinsteins first announced RADiUS as a VOD division, “that was not ever the intent I had… It was simply a division, a label of TWC that was a lot more flexible and more interested in multi-platform releasing than anyone else was.”
Quinn and Janego were frustrated at TWC by not being able to acquire some high-profile titles for their label that went on to great success such as “Whiplash,” “Spring Breakers” and “Nightcrawler.” While RADiUS helped TWC with a smaller-scale multi-platform release for “Snowpiercer” when Harvey Weinstein pulled back from a $25-million wide-release campaign for the film, the RADiUS team began to see the upside of releasing theatrically ahead of VOD, but started overlapping with the Weinsteins’ own acquisition and release goals. They took “Twenty Feet from Stardom” on the road for a year, building momentum and press attention before its Oscar win became inevitable.
And at Cannes last year, they made a $500,000 bid for eventual foreign Oscar-winner “Son of Saul,” which eventually went to Sony Pictures Classics. “I would never release ‘Son of Saul’ as a multi-platform,” said Quinn. “I wanted to buy that film, and would have done exactly what they did at Sony Classics… Tim and I both strongly felt that this is a film that transcends generations in way that is so unique. What this filmmaker is doing is reminiscent of what you’d usually expect from the New York Film Festival menu, but it could also play at Fantastic Fest. That to me is the cross-section that we excel at.”
League, Quinn and Janego plan to pursue theatrical as well as VOD strategies with their new company on a customized case by case basis, deploying a full menu of release options.
These days, the Weinsteins have chinks in their armor as they downsize with tighter overhead and a focused slate, at the urging of their board. When a spate of key execs left TWC amid staff layoffs, from marketing (Stephen Bruno), production (Dylan Sellers), digital (Andrew Stachler), and international (Michael Rothstein), the Weinsteins mostly promoted from within. But when Glasser briefly exited the company last fall, Bob and Harvey Weinstein lured the exec back with the full support of their investors. That sent a more positive signal to a jittery industry.
The Weinsteins are pursuing more TV series such as “Project Runway” and “War and Peace,” will “monetize” their assets in 2016, and have a strong slate of productions going forward. That’s where their cash is going, as Glasser reins in unnecessary spending. Harvey Weinstein and Glasser opted to cancel sales meetings in Berlin, after declining to help send “The Hateful Eight” Oscar nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh to the BAFTAs. They wouldn’t have blinked at that line item in the old days.
As TWC follows their usual theatrical model, they plan to use nimble RADiUS as their day-and-date VOD option.