Focus Features

by Lizzie Kelleher

 History

David Linde and James Schamus formed Focus Features in 2002, after the divisional merger of USA Films and Good Machine. Focus Features was created as the art cinema division of NBC Universal, typically producing, and distributing, their own independent films. With cult classics like Wet Hot American Summer and other successful films such as Brokeback Mountain, Focus Features gains a steady profit from it’s US and international branches.  [1] 

In 2013, Focus Features went through a merger with FilmDistrcit, and the company’s executive team was completely changed. Peter Schlessel replaced James Schamus as CEO, and Andrew Karpen, former co-CEO, decided not to return to the company.

Key Executives

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Peter Schlessel- Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Peter Schlessel started at Sony, then became president of Columbia Pictures in 2000. He then moved on to run the independent film distribution company FilmDistrict. Schlessel joined from FilmDistrict, which was absorbed by Focus Features in 2013. He now acts as CEO, and has created a new management team.  [2]

Adrian Aplerovich- Photo courtesy of Home Media Magazine

Adrian Alperovich was named Focus Features’ new Chief Operating Officer in 2013, also joining from FilmDistrict. [3] 

Financials

As of Apirl 2014, Focus Features has a total gross of $44.9 million with only four movies. Acting as a private company, in 2013 Focus Features finished with annual gross of $37.3 million, up from $21.8 million is 2012. Two of Focus Features’ films did appear on the top 100 List for all movie grosses in 2013, with Dallas Buyers Club and The World’s End. Dallas Buyers Club’s critical acclaim helped the studio climb the list thanks to its high gross. However, there is speculation that Focus failed to turn an overall profit last year, which possibly led to the remolding of the company. Top competitors include DreamWorks, Lions Gate, and IFC Films[4] [5] [6]

Recent Film Releases

Photo courtesy of IMDb

Photo courtesy of IMDb

Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club, is the story inspired by true events of Ron Woodroof’s refusal to accept his death. After being diagnosed as H.I.V positive, Ron is given 30 days to live. In search of better medication than the U.S can offer, Ron goes to Mexico and begins smuggling in different treatments.  After befriending Rayon, who also is suffering from AIDS, the two form an underground “buyers club” to defy the scientific community, by providing H.I.V –positive people with non-approved medicine, and most importantly, hope. [7]

Dallas Buyers Club began its theatrical run in a limited release in only 9 theaters, but would eventually spread across the country to play in more than 1,100 theaters in its thirteenth week. The film has made a total domestic gross of more than $27 million, on a production budget of only $5 million. [8]

After its premiere at the 2013 Toronto Film FestivalDallas Buyers Club received high critical acclaim, and the film went on to receive six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and won lead actor Matthew McConaughey Best Actor. [7] [8] [9]

Current Film Releases

Photo courtesy of IMDb

Bad Words is a dark comedy staring, and directed by, Jason Bateman. Guy Trilby is a 40-year old spelling bee loser, who fights his way back into the National Quill Spelling Bee to win as an adult. Outraging parents and their 8th grade children alike, Guy befriends a 10-year old named Chaitanya, whom he shows the crazier side of living, while also changing his own life. [10]

Bad Words opened with limited release on March 14th, than expanded wide on March 28th, eventually to 1,074 theaters. On the weekend domestic chart for April 4th, Bad Words ranked overall 11th, with a weekend gross of almost $2 million.  The comedy now has a cumulative box office of over $7 million (as of April 21, 2014). [11]

The R-rated comedy received a 7 out of 10 on IMDb, but a weaker 56% positive review on Metacritic. However, overall reviews for the film are positive, Owen Gleiberman  of Entertainment Weekly praised Bad Words as “Grade A-Hilarious.” [12] [13] [10] [11]

Upcoming Projects

In the process of production- 

Courtesy of Indiewire

Courtesy of Indiewire

Focus Features is looking to take the place of The Weinstein Company to handle the domestic distribution of Passengers, a 2007 Black-List approved project staring Keanu Reeves. On his way to a distant planet, Reeves is a passenger, who wakes up from his sleep chamber years before anyone else. He decides to wake up a fellow female traveler for company, and the two fall in love, making Passengers a sci-fi romance. Game of Thrones director Brian Kirk is set to direct the film.

Reeves hired Jon Spaihts to write Passengers, and afterwards Reeves agreed to produce and star in the film. Spaihts is best known for co-writing Prometheus, another futuristic thriller that jump-started his career. While The Weinstein Company withdrew from the project after female lead Rachel McAdams left, Focus Features must see commercial potential in this high-value screenplay. [14]  [15]

Courtesy of Focus Features

Courtesy of Focus Features

Focus Features has acquired rights to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival premiere Under the Electric Sky. The 3D film follows the Electric Daisy Carnival, and explores the phenomenon of electronic and dance music today.

The movie is interactive, with Focus Features encouraging audiences to use social media to spread word about the movie. Fans will also be able to create their own movie screening events. Under the Electric Sky is directed by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz. [16]

 Coming Soon

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

The Signal, set to release this June, is a sci-fi thriller directed by up-and-comer William Eubank. The film premiered at the Sun-Dance Film Festival. [17]

Courtesy of IMDb

Courtesy of IMDb

The Boxtrolls is a 3D animated adventure coming alive next October. Based on the children’s novel Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow, is the story of a orphan boy, Eggs, who is raised underground by a group of ‘boxtrolls.’ The family film is created along with animation studio Laika.

Laika is known for their successful films like Coraline and ParaNorman, leaving The Boxtrolls set to have high expectations. [18] 

 

Sources

[1] About Focus Features 

[2] About Peter Schlessel 

[3] About Adrian Alperovich

[4] Focus Features Yearly Comparisons- Box Office Mojo

[5] Focus Features “Failed Profit”- The Wrap

[6] Focus Features Competition- Hoovers

[7] About Dallas Buyers Club- Focus Features

[8] Dallas Buyers Club- Box Office Mojo

[9] Oscar Winners and Nominees

[10] About Bad Words- Focus Features

[11] Bad Words Box Office- The Numbers

[12] Bad Words Rating- IMDb

[13] Bad Words Rating- Metacritic

[14] Passengers heads to Focus Features- The Wrap

[15] Jon Spaihts Passengers on The Black List- The New York Times

[16] Under The Electric Sky– Focus Features 

[17] The Signal- The Hollywood Reporter

[18] The Boxtrolls- Deadline

 

Comments are closed.