Nothing is certain in bankruptcy, and Relativity Media is on the verge of it. After years of mounting financial problems and limited returns on their artistic investments, the company owned by Ryan Kavanaugh is in free-fall, expected to file for bankruptcy today unless it’s able to pay a $320m debt commitment.
The company’s straitened circumstances have seen several release dates pushed back (or pushed back multiple times) as Kavanaugh and company have stalled for more time, unable to invest the kind of money needed for marketing campaigns to properly sell movies already completed and ready for screens. Now, several partners are attempting to end negotiations or sever contracts to keep films out of Relativity’s twisting nether.
Inspire Entertainment, the production company behind an untitled Jesse Owens Biopic starring Anthony Mackie, successfully pulled the project out of the Relativity fire at the last minute, but there are still several other titles that have unclear futures that depend on whether the studio functions post-bankruptcy (like MGM) or is liquidated by investors (like ill-fated Grand National or, more recently, Rhythm & Hues). It may be years before we see some of them, some may stay on track, and some may stay shelved forever.
As you read through, pay close attention to how many of these movies you don’t want to lose.
Originally set for August before being pushed to October, the comedy from director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) appropriately focuses on total idiots (Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig) stealing millions of dollars.
Kidnap is a thriller directed by Luis Prieto (Pusher), starring Halle Berry as the frantic mother of a kidnapped son willing to do anything to get him back. It’s also the movie that had to be moved to February 2016 in order to make room on the slate for a delayed Masterminds.
Jane Got a Gun
This is the big one. The tumultuous production history combined with its star power (Natalie Portman, Ewan Mcgregor, Joel Edgerton) and multiple appearances on Most Anticipated lists would make this a tragic thing to lose. It’s already fought so hard to exist that ending up in a vault thanks to bankruptcy proceedings would be a cruel Hollywood button line.
Fortunately, that’s highly unlikely to happen. Relativity currently shares US distribution rights with The Weinstein Company (unless they, too, are able to cut ties before the bankruptcy papers get filed), and rights for international distribution are spread healthily among a host of companies, meaning that the odds are on this embattled project seeing theaters eventually. It’s only a matter of when. It’s supposed to be out September 4th, but, as you can see, there still isn’t even a trailer for it. Not a death knell, but not a great sign.
Before I Wake
From director Mike Flanagan (Oculus), Before I Wake is a horror film starring Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane as parents that adopt a young son whose dreams manifest into reality like a reverse Freddy Krueger. It’s slated for September 25th, and Relativity is the sole US distributor.
The Disappointments Room
The story of a mother (Kate Beckinsale) and her family battling the horrors unleashed from a secret room in their new home’s attic, written by Wentworth Miller, directed by D.J. Caruso. It’s also set for a September 25th release (which seems an odd bit of unnecessary competition).
Relativity was the production company on this (in partnership with Demarest Films and Media Talent Group), and they’ve retained US distribution rights. A handful of international territories have already been sold, so it’s possible that this film will come out in Turkey but not at your local theater.
A product of the Duplass Brothers’ low-budget/high-return factory, this movie about the fading celebrity of a former Olympian was a slight Sundance darling (that Kate didn’t really like when she reviewed it). Relativity holds the US distribution rights.
If you’re going to be a getaway driver, you’d probably want to do it in Germany where there’s no speed limit. Directed by Eran Creevy (Welcome to the Punch), Autobahn is the story of a backpacker (Nicholas Hoult) who starts driving for drug smugglers, runs afoul of them, and leads them on a merry chase around Bavaria. Currently set for an October release, Relativity, you guessed it, owns the US distribution rights.
It’s going to be a fascinating short term future for the company and for the films under its belt, and these are just the movies that are ready for release. There’s also Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, a documentary about a Christian band that’s been pushed back to 2016; the Amanda Seyfried/Olivia Wilde comedy Love the Coopers set for 2016; the Jonathan Rhys Meyers spy thriller Damascus Cover; and a handful of others.
The fate might be clearer (albeit darker) for the projects Relativity currently has in development.
The Crow reboot, Act of Valor 2, Fletch Won, The Strangers 2 and Voltron are all movies Relativity is set to produce (with and without partners), and with the impending bankruptcy, they are likely set to be sold off, go into turnaround, or be lost in the contract shuffle altogether. For some, it’s the familiar feel of development hell.
But if you were paying special attention to the movies that you’ll really miss if they disappear into the storage room, you’ll probably notice the same thing I did: that there aren’t many that you can’t live without. There are some cool ideas, a few interesting stories and a neat pile of disposable projects. Not much really lights a fire here.
As someone who has complained about the lack of mid-budget films in the blockbuster era, this is the kind of list that slaps me in the face for being dead wrong. There are a lot of aggressively average movies out there. Work that seems destined for October and February releases with VOD dreams. Movies that might end up being good but forgettable until you catch them on rolling repeat on TBS.
In a sense, this list also characterizes exactly why Relativity failed in the first place.