Focus Features

By Iara Rogers Benchoam

 

focus-features-logo

      LOS ANGELES OFFICE     
 100 Universal City Plaza
 Universal City, CA 91608
NEW YORK OFFICE
65 Bleecker Street – 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10012
INTERNATIONAL OFFICE
26 Aybrook Street
London W1U 4AN
United Kingdom

 

 HISTORY

Focus Features is the sister company of NBCUniversal. The art-house unit of Universal Pictures, Focus produces and distributes specialty films in the U.S. and distributes films globally through Focus Features International. Focus aspires to challenge its viewers with controversial issues and deep concepts. Focus formed in 2002 with the merge of USA Films, Universal Focus, and Good Machine In February 2011, Focus Features partnered with Screen Media and launched Focus World, a VOD (video on demand) label aimed to bringing global and indie films to audiences across multiple platforms. Focus World films released to date include Resurrect Dead, C.O.G., and Underground: The Julian Assange Story. [1]  Currently, Focus is undergoing changes in key executives and domestic headquarters with the merge of FilmDistrict. [2]

Focus’ competitors are DreamWorks Studios, Lionsgate Entertainment Corp, and The Independent Film Channel LLC. These companies share values of specialty and high-quality produced films.

Brokeback Mountain, The Kids are All Right, Anna Karenina, Atonementand Milkare a handful of Focus’ Oscar wins and nominations. [3] Focus Features releases approximately 5 feature films annually. There is an expected bump up in yearly releases with the evaporation of FilmDistrict into Focus Features.

KEY EXECUTIVES

james_schamus_peter_schlessel

James Schamus and Peter Schlessel

Among being the co-founder and CEO to Focus, James Schamus is a screenwriter, producer, and a fervid pursuer of the art-house genre. Schamus’ notable filmography includes Hulk and Brokeback Mountain. With the merge of Focus’ and FilmDistrict, Peter Schlessel, a professional of the studio and specialty films, will take over as Focus Features’ CEO starting January 2014. [4] 

Andrew Karpen and Adrian Alperovich

Andrew Karpen and Adrian Alperovi

 

Adrian Alperovich will run as chief operating officer with the changes in January 2014, taking the place of Andrew Karpen who declined the offer to move to LA with the new Focus Features headquarters. [5] As co-chief executive officer, Karpen managed Focus’ international and domestic activities.

 

FINANCIALS

Focus Features’ annual and quarter financials are private. Since its launch in 2002, Focus Features has undergone a plummet in the box offices. In an effort to change the company’s unprofitability, Universal Pictures pushed for the merge between Focus and FilmDistrict, a change in headquarters and executives, more commercialized productions, and an increase of 10 films produced and distributed annually by the improved Focus Features. [6]

2013 marks Focus’ first year with 10 releases.  An overall gross profit of $86.4 million is perceived as low in comparison to the $131.2 million in 2012 with only 7 releases. There was a -34.1% decrease in annual gross between 2012 and 2013 and a -29.9% decrease when comparing 2011 and 2013 box offices. [7]

FILMDISTRICT MERGE

filmdistrict-focusfeatures-combo-tsrOctober 2013, Universal Pictures, the parent company to Focus Features, announced the absorption of FilmDistrict into Focus Features with new CEO, Peter Schessel. Schessel officially begins as head of Focus Features January 2014 in the new Los Angeles headquarters. The revamped Focus Features company plans to bring in most of the FilmDistrict team alongside Peter Schessel and Adrian Alperovich.  [8]

“The breadth and depth of Peter’s experience in the film business including production, acquisitions, distribution and most recently running FilmDistrict, will be a tremendous asset to Focus Features as the company broadens its portfolio beyond the production and distribution of specialty product,” said Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley. “Peter is one of the most talented executives in the industry and I’m confident that under his leadership, Focus will become even more of a force as the specialty film business continues to evolve.” [9] Under Schessel’s administration starting January 2014, the remaining FilmDictrict productions will be released as a part of Focus Features films.

The merge serves to build Focus’ global footprint by increasing commercial films, broadening film styles, and raising annually released films to 10. These goals will further structure and change the art-house film unit and expand the company’s range of audiences. The absorption of FilmDistrict and part of its professional team will escalate Focus Features to a status above its specialty competitors.

THE WORLD’S END

The World's End Poster

Released: August 23, 2013

Following the success of Hot Fuzz (2007) and Shaun of the Dead (2004)director Edgar Wright takes on a new, explosive production with The World’s End. Director Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, tells a story about the reunion of five lifelong friends who rekindle over a drinking game but face obstacles of the apocalyptic degree. The reunited team, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, fight for the future humankind in The World’s End. [10]

The World's End Box Office

Opening weekend The World’s End ranked fourth with $8,811,790 in 1,551 theaters. Currently in its 13th week, The World’s End grossed about two times as much as its budget with $46,074,336 worldwide. [11] The third in Wright’s Cornetto trilogy, The World’s End expected to soar inside and outside target audiences. With continual decrease in weekend gross, the theater count dropped dramatically every weekend, adding to the overall decrease in The World’s End profitability for Focus Features.

FUTURE

The future for Focus Features revolves around the changes in the company, innovation in a multi-platform world, oscar buzz, and additional films set for release from both FilmDistrict and Focus’ slate.

Dallas Buyers Club poster

Among Focus’ four theatrical releases of 2013, Dallas Buyers Club holds the most praise and interest. Based on true events, Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of a life-enthusiast, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), diagnosed with H.I.V.. Woodroof refuses to believe his scheduled demise in 30 days and challenges the scientific and medical community by smuggling unapproved treatments and medicines to the U.S. from Mexico. On his journey, he befriends a fellow AIDS struggler and transsexual, Rayon (Jared Leto). Together they form a buyers club to sell and distribute new HIV medicines. A story on the education, acceptance, and struggle of the AIDS epidemic, Dallas Buyers Club takes on a topic still toxic and hidden in todays world. [12]

Dallas Buyers Club box officeWith its initial release, Dallas Buyers Club is receiving Oscar buzz for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s work. The film gained initial recognition and buzz in the Toronto International Film Festival alongside Jason Bateman‘s Bad Words. Focus Features bought the rights to distribute the two films at TIFF and expect high successes. [13]

Focus Features is currently producing Bad Words to be released March 2014, Boxtrolls to be released September 2014, and 50 Shades of Grey to be released February 2015. With the new merge, the company plans on releasing the slate that FilmDistrict carries, alongside their own slate. Universal Pictures took an educated leap with this merge; only the future will tell if Focus will prosper as a production company or flop as an amateur partnership.

SOURCES

[1] IndieWire- Focus World Launch

[2] Google Finance- Focus Features

[3] Yahoo- Focus Features Summary

[4] Hollywood Reporter- Focus 2014 CEO Changes

[5] Variety- Focus 2014 Co-CEO Changes

[6] WSJ- Focus Profit Strategy

[7] BoxOfficeMojo- Yearly Comparisons

[8] Variety- FilmDistrict Team to Focus

[9] IndieWire Focus Executives Change

[10] The World’s End Official Page

[11] BoxOfficeMojo- The World’s End Review

[12] Dallas Buyers Club Official Page

[13] Deadline- Dallas Buyers Club Oscar Buzz

IMAGE SOURCES

From top

1. WordPress- Focus Features Logo

2.  Hollywood Reporter- CEO, Old and New

3a. NBCUMV- CoCEO Karpen

3b. Homemedia Magazine- FilmDistrict Alperovich

4. Firstshowing.net- FilmDistrict Merge into Focus Features

5. DraftHouse- The World’s End Poster

6. BoxOfficeMojo- The World’s End

7. BlackSheepReviews- Dallas Buyers Club Poster

8. BoxOfficeMojo- Dallas Buyers Club

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