BREAKING: Ted Hope, the veteran independent producer who took a sabbatical to run the San Francisco Film Society, has resurfaced in a new gig. He starts at the end of the month as CEO of Fandor, a subscription service that hopes to do for festival and foreign films what Netflix does for mainstream films and TV series. He has been on Fandor’s board of advisors since the service launched in 2011 and sees an opportunity to redraw what he feels is an arcane infrastructure that results in all but the most commercial or exceptional arthouse titles falling through the cracks.
“At the Film Society, I went from project producer to trying to build something better for the ambitious hyper film culture and as much as I loved that mission, it is hard to be nimble and entrepreneurial in a non-profit world,” Hope told Deadline. “The entrepreneurial for-profit world felt like a perfect transition to refocus myself on the mission to enable change.”
Hope said that Fandor already has more than 5000 titles, and the basic subscription fee for cinephiles is $9 per month or $90 annually. That catalogue is growing—Hope said Fandor has formed alliances with 13 distributors in the last quarter alone and that the service is available on Roku—and he said that the combination of choice, and aggressive and informed curation of titles to a hungry specialized film audience, will bring greater revenues to makers of these films and the rights holders.
“It is set up to favor the artists and rights holders, and 50% of the subscription fees are generated back to them in a revenue sharing program based on the idea that the more the film is viewed, the greater the financial benefit,” said Hope, who will remain in San Francisco.
Hope has been around the block in the indie space since the 90s, forming Good Machine with James Schamus and producing over 60 indies that range from Happiness to The Ice Storm, American Splendor and In The Bedroom. He has watched the prestige film biz evolve but not take full advantage of digital possibilities to corral the niche audience for festival films.
“The industry has done a poor job matching these films with the right people,” he said. “Most people see three movies a year, and the art house audience, people like me who might see 250 films, is 3% of the film going audience. Yet these films are marketed to everybody. Creating a strongly curated pool to help those people find what is most appropriate for them creates an opportunity for the artists. Once you move past the 500-600 titles distributed theatrically, what about the other 49,455 titles? The ventures that succeed are the ones that will best match those films with the audiences that want to see them. To rely on impulse buys or encourage passive consumption of film is not unleashing the potential of cinema. I think Fandor can be an important part of changing that.”