FilmRise Names Jonitha Keymoore Senior Director of Global Acquisitions

New York-based film and television studio and streaming network FilmRise April 13 announced the appointment of Jonitha Keymoore as senior director of global acquisitions. The announcement was made by Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise.

Jonitha Keymoore

As senior director, Keymoore will be responsible for developing new multi-territory film and television acquisition opportunities, while working across existing content partners to help build FilmRise’s growing global licensing and distribution business. Keymoore will represent FilmRise as a buyer at virtual film and television markets throughout 2021. She reports directly to Einhorn.

Previously, Keymoore was senior director of content acquisitions at ViacomCBS, where she served in a senior strategic role for the company, negotiating deal terms for acquired content and working directly with large studios such as Sony Pictures, Disney, Fox, CBS, Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal, among others. Prior to that, she served as director of distribution at Konami Cross Media, handling the anime property “Yu-Gi-Oh!,” leading the franchise’s strategic partnership for theatrical, broadcast, home video and digital distribution.

“[Keymoore’s] impressive and extensive background managing important brands and acquiring for globally-known networks and streaming services will certainly allow FilmRise to continue its strategy to be the key content supplier for streamers,” Einhorn said in a statement.

FilmRise Promotes Melissa Wohl to SVP, Head of Sales

FilmRise has promoted Melissa Wohl to SVP, head of sales. Wohl will continue to lead the company’s domestic and international sales activities across all broadcast and digital platforms alongside her continuously expanding team, due to the company’s rapid growth.

Wohl reports to Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise.

Melissa Wohl

Since joining the company, Wohl has been pivotal in bringing in and establishing ongoing relationships with top FAST streaming services, including Pluto TV, Tubi, Xumo, Rakuten and Samsung TV Plus, among many others. Wohl will continue executing and overseeing  the company’s Broadcast, premium VOD, SVOD, AVOD and TVOD initiatives.

“Melissa’s insight and knowledge of the broadcast and digital industry has been instrumental to FilmRise’s exponential growth within the past four years,” Fisher said in a statement. “Her leadership has allowed the company to move into exciting territories and platforms and we look forward to her leading us into new directions.”

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Wohl joined FilmRise in 2017 as head of sales. Prior to joining FilmRise, Wohl served as SVP of worldwide distribution at Content Media. For nearly a decade, she oversaw the sales of Content’s film and television titles to broadcast and cable networks, syndicators, and digital platforms.  Prior to that, she was VP of sales and acquisitions at Harmony Gold, where she managed the worldwide sales of their extensive library.

FilmRise Picks Up Digital Rights to ‘Highway to Heaven’

FilmRise, a New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired the worldwide digital distribution rights to classic TV series “Highway to Heaven.”

Starring Michael Landon (“Bonanza,” “Little House on the Prairie”) and Victor French (“An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Rio Lobo”), the series follows a probationary angel sent back to Earth who teams up with an ex-cop to help people.

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“We’re thrilled to add the beloved series ‘Highway to Heaven’ to FilmRise’s constantly growing library of treasured, classic television series,” FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher said in a statement. “Now, millions of original fans will be able to re-watch the series and a whole new group of viewers will have the opportunity to discover it — including in multiple dubbed versions throughout the world. Additionally, we will now be able to release newly restored, HD versions, which we are excited to introduce to streaming.”

“Genesis is excited that FilmRise, a company with a proven track record of success with digital properties, has partnered with us on ‘Highway to Heaven,’” said Wayne Lepoff, president and CEO of Genesis International TV & Film. “Since Genesis first introduced ‘Highway to Heaven’ into U.S. television syndication, our admiration for Michael Landon and his legacy, as well as his family and business team, has been unparalleled.”

The American fantasy drama series aired for five seasons on NBC from 1984 to 1989, with a total of 111 episodes, and received numerous Emmy nominations. “Highway to Heaven” was Michael Landon’s final TV show and a Nielsen top 20 series during its first season.

FilmRise Inks Distribution Deal With Children’s Content Company Nelvana

FilmRise, a New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has entered into a distribution deal with Nelvana, a producer, distributor and licensor of children’s animated and live action content.

Under the deal, FilmRise will offer approximately 800 hours of Nelvana’s children’s programming to SVOD and AVOD platforms across the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany.

Programs include anime shows “Bakugan” and “Beyblade,” in addition to iconic children’s animated series such as “Babar,” “Braceface,” “Class of the Titans,” “Rupert,” “Tales from the Cryptkeeper,” “Donkey Kong Country,” “Rescue Heroes” and “Franklin.”

“Nelvana, a key player in the programming, merchandising and licensing space, is a perfect strategic fit for our latest initiative of bringing a wide array of high-quality children’s content into the digital space, including the proliferation of family-friendly, co-viewing content on the FilmRise Streaming Network, the launch of the FilmRise Family FAST Channel, and the release of our feature-length family musical, Lilly’s Light: The Movie,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement.

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“Nelvana’s breadth of premium family-friendly programming lends itself perfectly to streaming platforms that are looking to expand their own offerings as consumers continue to look for content on various digital platforms,” Mellany Masterson, head of Nelvana Enterprises, said in a statement. “Our partnership with FilmRise allows us to connect with new audiences and bring them our beloved properties including popular anime series ‘Bakugan’ and ‘Beyblade’ and cherished fan favorites ‘Babar’ and ‘Franklin.’”

FilmRise Acquires U.S. Rights to Feature ‘Beans’

FilmRise, a New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the full-length feature film Beans.

The coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old Mohawk girl forced to grow up fast during the 1990 Indigenous uprising known as The Oka Crisis was awarded second runner up of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and is an Official Selection at Berlinale 2021. Beans is directed by Tracey Deer, an Indigenous woman whose own experiences from the crisis inspired her to write this impactful movie.

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Beans is a perfect addition to our library of films showcasing important stories from underrepresented populations,” Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise, said in a statement. “Deer has created a powerful, eye-opening perspective about an historic event that shook the Indigenous community of Quebec exactly 30 years ago.”

“We are thrilled with all the honors that the Berlinale, TIFF and others have given us, and now Tracey’s voice and vision will be carried in the U.S. with FilmRise,” added producer Anne-Marie Gélinas of EMAFilms in a statement. “Our film’s story is so relevant to the times that we are currently living.”

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The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Deer won the TIFF Emerging Talent Award and later was selected to TIFF Canada’s Top Ten. The film went on to the Vancouver Film Festival where it won Best Canadian Film and Most Popular Canadian Narrative. Beans has also played at the Sao Paulo Film Festival in Brazil and the Los Cabos Film Festival in Mexico.

Beans

In the film, Tekehentahkhwa (played by Kiawentiio) goes by her quirky nickname, Beans. She is a loving big sister to her constant sidekick, Ruby (Violah Beauvais), as they play in the woods and carefully avoid the rough and tough kids of their neighborhood on the Mohawk reservation of Kahnawà:ke, Quebec. When a peaceful protest at a neighboring reservation turns into an armed stand-off to protect a burial ground from being desecrated for a golf course expansion, Beans’ community quickly joins the battle in what becomes known as the Oka Crisis. Overnight, her community is cut off from the outside world. Beans seeks out the toughest girl she knows, April (Paulina Alexis), to help her transform into the brave Mohawk warrior that she needs to be to survive.  She gains acceptance with the cool clique, but that doesn’t prepare her for the racism and violence she confronts as the conflict escalates. Unable to cope, she descends into a dark, rage-filled existence focused on revenge. It’s not until her reckless actions put everyone she cares about into peril that she wakes up to what’s really important in her fragile world.

Children’s Musical ‘Lilly’s Light’ Debuts on TVOD March 2

FilmRise will release the children’s musical adventure Lilly’s Light: The Movie March 2 on TVOD for rental and purchase.

The film, which explores the challenges facing foster children and is based on the original TV program “Lilly’s Light” that premiered on PBS stations in 2010, stars Sherry Hursey (“Home Improvement,” Bring It On), and co-stars Mindy Sterling (“Austin Powers” franchise, “iCarly”), Philece Sampler (“Stanley”) and Fred Willard (Best in ShowMascots).

Hursey portrays Lilly, a loving foster mom and the keeper of an enchanted lighthouse. With her spirited crew of kids, their exotic talking pets and zany friends, Lilly uses joy, love, laughter and song as her tools and shows everyone that life is full of possibilities. The adventure begins when two curious members of Lilly’s crew discover the Big Book of Little Adventures in the lighthouse basement. Messenger-pelican Pel Mel brings news that newly orphaned Daniel and his pot-bellied pig Oink need a home. As sisters Peaches (Sterling) and Dee (Sampler) snicker-bicker, Professor Crabbe perfects the Illiator. Will and Al Patchitt prepare for guests, while Lilly, the kids and Uncle Fitz take Daniel on a musical journey where they meet Sir Oinks a Lot, the Wizard of Hog (Willard). He discovers the secret of the lighthouse and how to turn the imaginary into a magical adventure. As the adventure ends, the story returns to present day in the lighthouse basement several years later to reunite the characters.

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The title includes song contributions by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-, Grammy-, and Tony Award-winning singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins and Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee Steve Dorff.

The film recently won its second Kids First! Best Award from The Coalition for Quality Children’s Media.

Viewers can see a music video here.

FilmRise Picks Up Distribution of TV Movies, Series and Romantic Comedies From Reel One

FilmRise, a New York-based film and TV studio and streaming network, has entered into a distribution agreement with Reel One Entertainment for a package of 15 originally produced romantic comedy films and an additional 100 titles consisting of made-for-TV movies and TV series.

The original movies will debut in the United States this year.

FilmRise will be offering to broadcast and digital platforms five recently completed original films, including A Picture Perfect Wedding, with “Letterkenny” star Tyler Johnston, and A Wedding to Remember, starring Christina Rosato who has been cast in a recurring role on Disney+’s upcoming “Turner & Hooch” series reboot. Producers were able to responsibly produce the films during the pandemic by featuring real-life couples in lead roles.

FilmRise will be the exclusive distributor in the United States across streaming outlets for the licensed made-for-TV movies and series and will sell TV rights alongside Reel One.

These programs include more than 100 titles comprised of female-fronted thrillers that debuted on Lifetime, and holiday, genre films and series such as the family-friendly crime-drama “Detective McClean: Ties That Bind.”

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“We are excited to bring these films and TV series to our digital partners and the FilmRise Streaming Network,” Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise, said in a statement. “Feel-good movies have made networks successful over many years, and now more than ever, they have become comfort-viewing for audiences during these challenging times.”

“Reel One is happy to be in business with FilmRise, a company building from strength in digital distribution,” Tom Berry, CEO of Reel One, said in a statement. “We hope that this is just the beginning.”

DEG Panelists: PVOD Here to Stay

After an accelerated push during the pandemic in 2020, premium VOD is a permanent addition to the home entertainment marketplace, said panelists during a Jan. 27 DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group online presentation.

“We think that PVOD is here to stay, and it really is a big part of our business,” said Fandango SVP Mark Young. Fandango owns transactional VOD services Vudu and FandangoNow.

Microsoft’s Pedro Gutierrez noted that PVOD, debuting in the same window or close to theatrical release, allows for more effective studio marketing. Whereas traditionally a film’s home entertainment marketing would come months after its theatrical push, PVOD has allowed studios to move it up so the title is “fresh in consumers’ minds,” he said.

“You’re able to see the studios able to support the home entertainment releases stronger than previously,” he said, adding “you have that nice consistent message for the title availability.”

For parents like him, family titles are a particular draw during stay-at-home orders, even with a bigger price tag, he said.

“When there is new content that can buy an hour and a half or two hours of silence, we are jumping at the opportunity,” he said.

Aside from first-run films on PVOD, catalog is also getting a boost as folks stay home, Young said, noting that the classic series “The Twilight Zone” has been a strong seller.

“It’s good fodder for cathartic viewing,” he said.

Fandango has also employed TVOD bundling of titles to entice customers.

“We work with the studios’ licensing groups … whether it’s by genre, by actor, by type of movie, whether it’s by demographic,” he said. “We look at our data to be able to bundle things that are interesting for consumers … in some cases across studios.”

Gutierrez agreed that unique marketing is key for TVOD.

“At the end of the day, we all have the same piece of film content, whether it’s from Warner, from Universal, from whichever partner,” he said. “How do we make it unique? We spend a lot of time targeting our customers in a manner that’s appropriate for them [with a title that] shows their interest based on prior search or selections — or we even do a lot of game and movie bundles for our gaming audience on Xbox.”

He said collectors are alive and well in the digital realm, just as with discs.

“We’ve all seen the people who have their wall of DVDs,” he said. “With the digital stuff, people want to show you their library’s bigger than Netflix. They want to buy. [The digital collector] does not want to have to worry about do I need to go to HBO Max, do I need to go to Disney+. Where is my content? My content is right here in my collection.”

“We also see on Vudu in particular a lot of collectors, rabid collectors,” added Fandango’s Young.

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FilmRise’s Fisher touted the growth and appeal of his expanding part of the digital business: free, ad-supported streaming or AVOD.

“In the AVOD space, one does not need a credit card, does not need to log in. All they need is an internet device,” he said. “Not all families in the U.S., let alone around the world, can afford 10 subscriptions. Some can’t even afford one subscription.”

FilmRise has found success with catalog as well, including the recently acquired classic show “The Rifleman.”

“It’s a black-and-white TV show, four by three aspect ratio, over six decades old,” he said. “We identified that the consumer demand was really strong.”

FilmRise uses data algorithms and “proprietary analytics” to find such underutilized content, adding AI machine learning in 2020.

“We don’t care what the industry thinks people want to see, we care what people want to see,” he said, adding that such older shows as “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “21 Jump Street,” and “Lost in Space” are doing well on AVOD. “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Forensic Files,” which attract strong demand for FilmRise, have even been rebooted, he noted.

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FilmRise Streaming Network Grows to 31.5M App Downloads

FilmRise Jan. 21 announced that its owned-and-operated streaming network has grown its installed base 30% in 2020, to more than 31.5 million app downloads.

With a library of major studio and independent feature films combined with branded series such as “Unsolved Mysteries,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Forensic Files” and “The Rifleman,” the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network has seen an incredible surge in consumer appetites for free, ad-supported content, according to a press release.

FilmRise’s monthly ad impressions on its owned and operated AVOD network have reached nearly 150 million, it reported.

In 2020, 12 of the channels on FilmRise’s OTT network have each become the world’s largest free AVOD services in their respective genres — including True Crime, Westerns, Sci Fi, Action, Mysteries and Horror — according to the company.

Danny Fisher, FilmRise president and CEO

“2020 was an unprecedented year not only for FilmRise, but for the entire home entertainment ecosystem,” Danny Fisher, president and CEO of FilmRise, said in a statement. “We saw quite rapidly the consumer’s appetite change from broadcast and cable to OTT platforms much sooner than anticipated. The pandemic most certainly shortened the inevitable transition considerably.”

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Multi-title deals in 2020 with entertainment companies, including Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT), have added content to FilmRise’s channels, the company noted. Content included Warner Bros. films Sleepers, The Informant!, Cobra and Insomnia and NENT’s six seasons of the “Doc Martin” series and the original British version of “Shameless.”

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FilmRise has a library of more than 30,000 movies and TV episodes. It is currently the largest independent provider of content to ad-supported streaming services, according to the company, providing content to platforms including The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, IMDb TV, Peacock, Tubi and Crackle.

FilmRise Inks Content Deal for YouTube Talent

Studio and streaming network FilmRise and talent management company Night Media have entered into an agreement to bring a dozen digital native creators to digital streaming platforms and broadcast television.

FilmRise will package and produce broadcast and streaming content from Night Media creator videos.

The creators have garnered millions of subscribers and views on YouTube, according to a press release.

“The opportunity to leverage FilmRise’s vast global streaming network and Night Media’s most popular YouTube creator brands to streaming audiences is very exciting to us and we believe there will be huge cross-over success,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement.

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Night Media represents nearly two dozen digital native creators across genres including comedy, lifestyle, philanthropy, gaming, challenges and travel, among others. FilmRise will be offering to digital platforms packaged content from “Mr. Beast” (47 million subscribers per month), “Preston & Brianna” (20.1 million subscribers per month, collectively), “Dallmyd” (11.5 million subscribers per month), “Matt Stonie” (13.1 million subscribers per month), “Unspeakable (25 million subscribers per month), “Guga Foods” (3.75. million subscribers per month) and “Azzyland” (13.2 million subscribers per month), among others.

“FilmRise’s leading position in the content streaming universe home entertainment industry creates a perfect opportunity for our talent to gain more exposure on multiple platforms to further their ever-growing audience,” Reed Duchscher, CEO of Night Media, said in a statement.

FilmRise will debut packaged seasons of “Mr. Beast” and “Preston & Brianna” on streaming networks in the spring.