EXCLUSIVE: In a big shot in the arm for the independent distribution game as Virtual Cannes gets underway, Open Road Films is back up and running. Funding is in place from New York-based private equity firm Raven Capital Management. Open Road Films will be led by Raven principal James Masciello with key support from Matt Sidari. The shingle will resume acquiring and releasing films in partnership with Tom Ortenberg’s Briarcliff Entertainment.
Ortenberg was founding CEO who launched Open Road in 2011 for theater chains AMC and Regal, and steered the company to success that culminated in Best Picture winner Spotlight, along with such indie hits as A Haunted House, Chef, Dope, End of Watch, The Grey, Mother’s Day, Homefront, Killer Elite, Marshall, Nightcrawler, The Nut Job, Side Effects, Snowden and Triple 9.
The distributor will get up and running with the Mark Williams-directed action/thriller Honest Thief, starring Liam Neeson, opening the theaters nationwide later this summer.
Ortenberg left in 2017 after the theater chains sold the company to Tang Media Partners and mashed that company and IM Global into Global Road. Ortenberg didn’t like the fit and exercised an option to leave and he started Briarcliff.
Tang built a pricey infrastructure before having the funding in place, and Global Road cratered. The acquisition that hurt most included Hotel Artemis, a pricey acquisition that failed to perform despite a large P&A commitment. Global Road Entertainment fell into Chapter 11, and the asset was purchased in 2018 by Raven Capital Management for $90 million, including 45 library titles highlighted by Spotlight.
The reconstituted Open Road is now ready for its close-up, again. Ortenberg will oversee theatrical release campaigns, ranging from wide screen openings to small and mid-range films.
Raven will also ramp up its development, production and financing of features and television through its association and financing of Sculptor Media.
“Theatrical distribution has been in the works for us for a while,” said James Masciello. “It is a natural extension of the single picture and post theatrical distribution capabilities that we’ve been building out for the better part of a decade. We’re not naïve to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has and will continue to create unique challenges, but the cinematic experience is not going away, and challenges create opportunity. Across all industries, Raven has built its platform brick by brick with a focus on sustainability over scalability. In doing so, we are well positioned to manage through uncertain times. We’re happy to be in business with Tom, someone I deeply respect and whose experience will be invaluable.”
Said Ortenberg: “It’s an honor and pleasure to be working with James and everyone at Raven to relaunch Open Road Films. We will continue the Open Road tradition of quality, commercially viable motion pictures and I look forward to many successes together.”
There is room for growth here as Raven is well capitalized and has its own activity in the development, production and financing of features and television that can help fill out a release slate. Raven and Sculptor, in partnership with Zero Gravity Management, recently completed production on the Rob Lorenz-directed The Marksman, also starring Neeson. Raven separately acquired the 400+ title Exclusive Media Group library with Andrea Iervolino and Lady Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Distribution in 2015.
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