Peter Bart: Broad Green’s Billionaire Brothers Dream Big Despite Slow Start In Hollywood

Broad Green Pictures

“If billionaires liked to party as much with scientists as they do movie stars, we might be in a moment of great scientific progress,” reflects Gabriel Hammond. To be sure, the movie stars usually win and Gabriel, 37, and his brother, Daniel, 33, are prime examples. Having made their billions on Wall Street, the pair have poured many millions into the movie business during the past two years for a very basic reason: They love movies. And they are weathering the fiscal punishment that goes with initiation.

The Hammonds reflect the traits of many of the boisterous billionaires now invading Hollywood — yet they really don’t. The Broad Green Pictures duo don’t make the social scene. They don’t yearn for franchises or superheroes, nor are they looking for funding from China. And they understand Hollywood’s rituals of admission: Having taken a beating on their first few films, they doubled down on their bet by starting a distribution company and hiring new chiefs of production (Matt Alvarez), distribution (Travis Reid) and acquisitions (Marc Danon) — all told a staff of 90. They’ve also moved into an elegantly sculpted studio adjacent to the historic Hollywood Center, complete with built-in commissary and sleek screening rooms.

Their dream: to create a Pixar-like cinematic community in the middle of Hollywood. “We understand what we’ve done wrong in our first two years,” says Daniel Hammond, who is boyishly genial with a Beatles-like dome of black hair. Broad Green needs sharper campaigns, better release dates and less dependence on acquisitions. The initial slate had its strong spots: A Walk in the Woods with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte cruised past $30 million, but 99 Homes, a very well-reviewed film starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, bombed at $1.7 million.

neon demonDefying the franchise-fixated summer competition, Broad Green is releasing two summer films: Nic Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, a stylish horror film starring Elle Fanning (June 24), and The Infiltrator, a thriller starring Bryan Cranston as a customs agent (July 13 against Ghostbusters). Hedging their bets, several Broad Green films are being co-funded with Miramax, Amazon and eOne (one eOne co-venture announced at Cannes was Villa Capri starring Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman and directed by Ron Shelton).

The Hammonds also are betting on a few favored filmmakers, such as Destin Daniel Cretton, who is prepping one film with Brie Larson and others with Michael Fassbender and Michael B. Jordan. Cretton’s breakthrough film, Short Term 12, was a 2009 Sundance winner. And their faith in the opaque works of Terrence Malick continues unabated – Malick has one film pending, which stars Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett and is set against the background of the music business (it is now in postproduction). On a more commercial note, Broad Green also is making Bad Santa 2 with Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates.

“We’re working our butts off to bring all this together,” says Gabriel, the older and more somber Hammond. “We share a house and are home every night having chamomile tea, reading and looking at film. We know we have to break some rules and come up with radical new approaches.”

Do they regret their Hollywood adventure? “There are times we stare at each other and wonder why,” says Daniel. “But then we see a terrific movie and we’re stoked again.”

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