EXCLUSIVE: Indie distributor XLrator Media is diving into content creation with John Suits and Gabriel Cowan’s film production shingle New Artists Alliance. The companies have inked a three-picture production and distribution deal to co-produce low-budget science fiction action thrillers, starting with the Brandon Routh-Caity Lotz astronaut pic 400 Days, now in post-production.
After seeing a self-described successful digital and VOD return on the $1.5 million-budgeted April sci-fier The Machine, XLrator’s CEO Barry Gordon was seeking similarly budgeted high-concept acquisition titles but found niche offerings to be sparse. He linked up with NAA, the producers behind recent genre pics Bad Milo and SXSW winner Cheap Thrills. The deal gives XLrator a stake in the pipeline driving content tailored to the kind of multiplatform release that made British android pic The Machine an iTunes high performer.
The two companies initially pacted on graphic novel adaptation The Scribbler, the upcoming Suits-helmed thriller about a young woman facing her multiple personalities that stars Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Eliza Dushku. XLrator acquired the title in December and will release it in theaters and on VOD on September 19. Continuing their partnership, the first film in XLrator and NAA’s new three-film deal is writer-director Matt Osterman’s 400 Days. Routh, The Machine‘s Lotz, Dane Cook, Ben Feldman, Tom Cavanagh, and Grant Bowler star in the psychological sci-fier about a space crew sent on an extended simulated mission to a distant planet only to discover the simulation is all too real. The pic is now in post and set for a summer 2015 release, while Content Films is selling international rights and will be screening footage for buyers at Toronto.
Cowan and Suits are casting the second film in the co-production deal, Viral, an outbreak pic written by Dustin Benson that made the 2012 Blood List. Suits will direct for a projected late-2015 release. Cowan is set to helm the third co-production, The Turn, penned by British graphic novelist and screenwriter Dan Schaffer, for a planned 2016 debut.
XLrator and NAA see the digital distribution landscape as a major avenue for their modestly budgeted genre titles, in addition to limited theatrical runs. (XLrator declined to divulge numbers on its digital hit The Machine.) “VOD is the biggest single income source of revenue for any of our movies,” said Cowan. “The numbers of VOD are going up and up. They haven’t taken over what DVD used to be, but it’s starting to fill that gap.
“This partnership combines XLrator Media’s formidable distribution strength and proven marketplace instincts with our creativity and production savvy,” he said. “With North American distribution in place for an entire slate of pictures, we can now focus on making movies, rather than preselling them.”
NAA’s recent lineup includes the Courteney Cox-directed Tribeca pic Just Before I Go, the Sam Rockwell-Marisa Tomei starrer Loitering With Intent, and sci-fi drama Extracted. XLrator is set to release 20 titles this year, including John Ridley’s Jimi: All Is By My Side and SXSW pics Housebound and The Mule.