EXCLUSIVE: Following a stunningly buoyant Sundance, another U.S. player is entering the fray. Heads were turned last autumn when Solstice Studios launched with an announced $400M in capitalization and ambitions to become the next multi-faceted U.S. mini studio. The distributor-producer, co-founded by Mark Gill, Andrew Gunn, Guy Botham and Vincent Bruzzese, brought on long-time Lionsgate international executive Crystal Bourbeau in November to spearhead domestic acquisitions and international sales. We spoke to Solstice’s Acquisitions & International Head to find out more about the company’s strategy on the eve of their first European Film Market.
“I’m beyond excited,” enthuses Bourbeau, who is a regular fixture on the circuit and well known to buyers. “Distributors have responded really well to our launch. I think they’re truly hungry for product.”
The plan is for Solstice to produce three-five movies a year for a global audience in the $30M-$80M range, while acquiring another two-four titles a year for wide U.S. theatrical distribution. There will also be a smattering of acquisitions for international sales.
“I’ve been approached by European and Asian partners about potential output deals,” says the LA-based former Lionsgate EVP International Sales and Distribution. “But outputs won’t be the priority for us. They tend to lend themselves to volume. We may structure a couple of strategic relationships but we want movies that stand alone on their own merits. We’re not going to be making movies in that tweener space. There will be co-production opportunities because there aren’t many domestic pickups in that $30-80M range. We’re actively working with producers.”
“In Berlin, I’ll be touching base with sellers to check out promos,” she continues. “We’re actively looking for domestic titles but also it’s about letting the international buyers know what we’re up to and hearing what their needs are.”
Priorities for Solstice will be English-language action pics, thrillers, grounded sci-fis and love stories, genres that still tend to have broad appeal in international markets, even if some of those markets are less predictable than a decade ago. Solstice won’t be on a shopping spree in Germany but if something stands out, it could be in the mix. The plan is to steadily build the slate.
“It needs to be the right film. We’re not in the volume game or in a rush. We’re looking for films that will work globally and which will have wide releases.”
Solstice’s launch coincided with the demise of another mini-studio hopeful, Global Road, and followed the dismantling of other players in the space such as TWC and Broad Green as well as cuts in studios’ film distribution departments. How will the firm avoid pitfalls that have befallen other sizeable operators in the space?
“We’re not doing outputs so buyers don’t need to worry about being pushed product that won’t work in their market,” explains Bourbeau. “It’s also an overhead issue. There have been several distributors no longer in business on the domestic front but we think there’s a real opportunity in the market place. We’re not finding that the sky is falling, which you hear sometimes.”
The plan is to grow incrementally to a maximum of around 65 staffers. The company is at 32 today. “We don’t want to ramp up too quickly. We’re being cautious,” explains Bourbeau who will bring on at least a couple of executives to bolster international sales and domestic acquisitions.
First to join her has been former Lionsgate and Warner Bros PR and marketing executive Lisa Perkins with whom she worked on The Hunger Games franchise. Perkins joins as SVP International Publicity & Marketing, reporting to Bourbeau.
Solstice’s existing team also includes Physical Production Head Rene Besson, Head of Distribution Elliot Slutzky, Senior Vice President and CTO Ed Churchward, Senior Vice President of Strategy Miriam Brin and Senior Vice President of Production & Development Beth Bruckner O’Brien.
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