EXCLUSIVE: John Wick producer Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road Films has teamed with Redbox Entertainment to form Asbury Park Pictures, a production label created to leverage the global appetite for moderately-budgeted high-concept action and thriller films.
The venture will produce a dozen films over three years with budgets in the $10 million-$12 million range. The films will be distributed domestically through Redbox’s vast system of DVD rental kiosks and on-demand streaming service, the first original content generated specifically for the ancillary distributor that has a subscriber base around 45 million in the U.S.
The venture allows for films with breakout potential to be set up with a theatrical distributor, and foreign sales firm Rocket Science will handle international distribution rights for the label, as well as arrange output partners in select territories.
The focus will be on filmmaker-driven films with commercial, high-concept action and thriller concepts. To keep costs reasonable, Asbury Park Pictures is establishing production centers in Eastern Europe, South East Asia and Canada.
The company’s initial slate includes the Thanksgiving military-family actioner War Comes Home, which Wrath of Titans and Halo helmer Jonathan Liebesman will direct from script by Gersh clients Yalun Tu and Matt Bosack; Blacksite, a cat-and-mouse action-thriller from multiple award-winning commercial and music video director Sophia Banks; and Numb, a taut home-invasion thriller to be directed by Tarsem Singh (The Fall and Immortals).
Mike Gabrawy, former Arclight Films Head of Production and Chief Creative Officer, has come aboard to launch the new venture with Iwanyk, who will continue to serve as head of Thunder Road, and Thunder Road President Erica Lee. Redbox Entertainment’s Head of Original Content, Marc Danon, will oversee the partnership on behalf of Redbox.
The company launches with deals in place with such leading international distributors as long-standing Thunder Road partner Italia Film (Middle East) alongside Leonine (Germany) and the Searchers (Benelux), with several other territories in the midst of competitive dealings for the output rights, with distributors in Spain, France and Australia to be announced shortly.
“What we have done here is Blumhouse, for action,” Iwanyk told Deadline. “Jason Blum’s model, and the discipline behind it, has made ours an easier sell, and we have had an overwhelming response both from filmmakers and the talent we are setting. We have 20-25 projects in development, and we will make the first four between November and mid-February. The budgets here are a big higher than Blumhouse — because action costs some money and scares can be done on the cheap — but it’s the same discipline. It’s the box theory. If it doesn’t fit in the box, we can’t do it.”
Iwanyk will continue to work on the bigger-budget films through Thunder Road – the next two John Wick films eyeing back to back shoots is the priority – but he believes the potential for this volume business here is vast.
“There used to be a booming market for low budget action movies, and there’s now a big hole in the marketplace,” Iwanyk said. “When I talked to distributor friends, they noted that the genre works again and again, but there’s nobody making them like this right now. Because of the John Wick movies, we see so many action scripts. But there are very few action stars that can carry these movies so a lot of the scripts were unmake-able. These smaller movies work different muscles, but the scripts are good and have drawn filmmakers who have had great success, with some up and comers who might be the next Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. You’ll be surprised at the level of cast we are getting for the films.”
Banks is an example of that, a fashion stylist-turned award-winning director whose sci-fi short Unregistered premiered at the 2019 Tribeca and played at over 20 festivals, with her followup, Proxy, to play at many upcoming festivals. She made the transition from fashion with the short Making It On Time for Christian Siriano, featuring women in couture gowns skateboarding through Downtown Los Angeles’ industrial alleyways.
CAA Media Finance arranged the funding for Asbury Park with Redbox and the foreign output deals.