By Dan Fabi
LOS ANGELES OFFICE
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
NEW YORK OFFICE
65 Bleecker Street – 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10012
26 Aybrook Street
London W1U 4AN
Focus Features is a subdivision of NBCUniversal, which primarily specializes in art films aimed at niche markets rather than mass market audiences . Focus Features allows the directors of the films they produce to have a final say in the editing room to produce the film that they had initially envisioned, creating a successful brand of art house films . Last year, the company celebrated its ten-year anniversary after being established in May 2002 through the merger of USA Films and Good Machine. Focus’s first widely released film was The Pianist, which received three Academy Awards for best actor, best director, and best adapted screenplay .
James Schamus, Founder and Outgoing CEO
Prior to forming Focus Features, James Schamus was the co-president of production company Good Machine, which he founded in 1991. Eleven years later, Schamus merged with USA Films to create Focus Features. Schamus is also an Academy Award nominee, receiving screenwriting and original score nominations for his work on Good Machine’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon .
Peter Schlessel, Incoming CEO
Formerly, Schlessel had founded FilmDistrict and was President for GK Films. GK has produced films such as Argo, Hugo, and World War Z. In January 2014, Schlessel’s term as Focus Features’ CEO will commence .
Andrew Karpen, Outgoing Co-CEO
Karpen joined the Focus Features executive team over a year after it formed as the company’s COO. In May 2013, he was promoted to co-CEO. As Co-CEO, Karpen controlled Focus’s domestic and international activities. Before joining Focus Features, Karpen was Senior Vice President, finance of Oxygen Media, another subsidiary of NBCUniversal .
Adrian Alperovich, Incoming COO
In May 2012, Alperovich was appointed Chief Operating Officer of FilmDistrict. Alperovich has been appointed to retain the title as his production company is absorbed by Focus. In January 2014, Alperovich’s term as Focus Features’ COO will commence .
Robert T. Gibson, CFO and Senior VP, Finance
In Mid-2004, Gibson joined Focus Features as Director, Finance and Strategic Planning. In 2009, he was appointed the company’s CFO. Gibson will follow the relocating of Focus Features headquarters to Los Angeles after previously being based in the company’s east coast offices .
In 2005, Focus Features released its highest grossing film, Brokeback Mountain. The film grossed over $83 million and received Oscars for best director, best adapted screenplay, and best original score . In 2013 thus far, Focus has released six films, gaining a gross profit of $86.4 million. In 2012, the company received a gross profit of $131.2 million from eight films. By November of 2012, the company’s total gross from the six films they released was $109.1 million, most of which came from animated blockbuster film, Paranorman, with a total gross of over $56 million. From November 2012 to November 2013, Focus Features has seen a 21% drop in total gross .
On October 1st, 2013, Universal Pictures announced a restructuring of Focus Features caused by the production company’s owner, Comcast. Focus absorbed FilmDistrict and appointed many of the members of FilmDistrict’s production team. Peter Schlessel will replace James Schamus as the new CEO. Other transferring executives include Adrian Alperovich, former COO of FilmDistrict and incoming COO for Focus. After given the opportunity to relocate to Focus Features’ new headquarters in Los Angeles, former co-CEO of Focus, Andrew Karpen, chose to remain in New York City with his family .
The reconstruction of Focus Features was meant to strengthen the company’s commercial competition with their rivals, some of which include DreamWorks Studios, Lions Gate Entertainment, and The Independent Film Channel LLC. By restructuring the company, Focus Features will begin producing films with more commercial potential .
Along with the reconstruction of the executive team, the New York offices of Focus Features will be closed at an unspecified date and business will continue on the west coast . On December 31st, 2013, Focus Features International is set to close its headquarters. Alison Thompson, co-president of Focus International, will continue to run the department of Focus Features from outside of its London headquarters. The announcement has jolted the American Film Market, a major buyer of Focus International  .
Recent Film Releases
Dallas Buyers Club
On November 1st, Focus Features released the film Dallas Buyers Club to several select cities. The film tells the true story of a severely homophobic man, Ron Woodroof whom in 1985 is diagnosed with HIV, a disease he believed only homosexuals could catch. He then teams up with a group to form a “buyers club;” a group dedicated to purchasing medicines that they could not obtain in the United States. The film is rated R for profanity, violence, and nudity .
Due to it’s limited release, the film opened in nine theaters and gained $350,000 in its first week. As of November 17th, the film has made about $3 million domestically. The film is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee and is starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner . The film has gained much attention for its informational portrayal of the HIV virus as well as its groundbreaking performances by the lead actors. Lead actors McConaughey and Leto have been predicted for Oscar nominations by some of the industry’s top critics..
The World’s End
On August 23rd, 2013, Focus released one of its highest grossing films of the 2013 fiscal year thus far called The World’s End. In it, a team of friends retries their “pub crawl” attempt, which they had failed 20 years earlier. The crawl involves twelve pubs in which each member must complete a pint of beer before they can move onto the next. The final pub, “The World’s End,” is the ultimate destination and one that the group failed to reach 20 years ago. Gary King, played by Simon Pegg, leads his team to the ultimate goal until they find that humankind is at stake .
The film was largely anticipated largely due to the reunion of the famed team of Director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The three have worked together on two previous films, Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007) . The World’s End is the final installment of what’s known as the “Cornetto trilogy” due to the films’ ever-present color schemes that relate to some of the company’s ice cream flavors.
Upcoming Film Releases
Fifty Shades of Grey
In May 2011, the novel Fifty Shades of Grey was released and immediately became a widespread smash. Focus Features subsequently picked up the movie rights to the series for $5 million. The film has an estimated budget of around $40 million .
The film (and book) is about literature student Anastasia Steele who through a business interview meets billionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey. The man, who is tormented by his inner demons, explores an intimate relationship with Steele. The two launch into graphic and descriptive bouts of sexual fantasy .
Fifty Shades of Grey has been a large topic of conversation in the media and one whose details have been kept hidden. There have been numerous rumors of casting and some announcements of cast dropouts. Pacific Rim actor Charlie Hunnam announced that he was dropping out from being the title character, Christian Grey. Since then, Jamie Dornan has been hired, an actor who has appeared in Marie Antoinette and the ABC show Once Upon a Time .