Action Drama ‘The Way’ Due on Digital, VOD and DVD Jan. 4 From Gravitas Ventures

The action drama The Way will be available for digital purchase, on cable video, on demand and DVD Jan. 4 from Gravitas Ventures in North America.

Directed, written and produced by Dastan Khalili of Alliance of Light Films, The Way debuted theatrically in November.

The Way is the story of Jane Arcs (Eli Jane), who 13 years ago was condemned to death after brutally killing her opponent in an underground street fight. Now, in just 24 hours, Jane will be executed for her crime. During her years on death row, Jane has undergone a major evolution under the tutelage of a fellow inmate and Qi Gong Master Xin (Joan Wong/ the niece of Kung-Fu Master Wong Jack Man, who was best known for his controversial duel with Bruce Lee in 1964), learning the way of Qi Gong and ostensibly gaining supernatural abilities. As the day of her execution arrives, Jane embraces her punishment in the spirit of transformation. Max Stone (Kelcey Watson), Jane’s boyfriend as well as correctional officer and part of the execution tie down team, has very different ideas. He is willing to do anything to save Jane.

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The Way was awarded Best Feature at Indie Fest, Best Director at the Paris Film Awards, Feature and Best Director Awards at the Accolades International Global Film Competition, and the Best Producing Prize at the Hollywood Golden Age Film Festival.

Anthem Acquires Gravitas Ventures

Anthem Sports and Entertainment, a multi-platform media company, has acquired content distributor Gravitas Ventures from Red Arrow Studios.

Anthem purchased the distributor for $73 million in cash and an additional common stock consideration component, according to the companies.

Gravitas founder and CEO Nolan Gallagher, president Michael Murphy, EVP and general counsel Brendan Gallagher, and CFO Brian Kenyon join the Anthem executive team. Additionally, the entire Gravitas Ventures organization will remain intact.

Gravitas Ventures joins Anthem’s roster of properties that includes AXS TV, HDNET Movies, IMPACT Wrestling, Invicta Fighting Championships, Fight Network, Game+ and GameTV. The purchase gives Anthem more than 8,000 hours of sports and entertainment content in its library to complement its seven consumer-facing streaming channel brands, according to a press release.

Cleveland-based Gravitas Ventures has been part of Red Arrow Studios since November 2017, and typically releases more than 300 films and documentaries per year. The most recent high-profile films in the portfolio include the 2020 feature The Secret: Dare to Dream, starring Katie Holmes, and the 2021 film Queen Bees, starring Ellen Burstyn and James Caan.

The deal gives Anthem’s properties access to Gravitas Ventures titles and opens up new areas of growth and revenue for Anthem’s existing content library, “allowing Anthem to utilize Gravitas’ rich partnerships with top digital platforms,”according to the release. Upon completion of the transaction, Anthem will add more than 200 customers to its ranks, while unlocking additional promotion opportunities for its various business units and enabling Gravitas to invest further in content opportunities, new themed channels and to enter the television distribution market.

The deal will allow Gravitas “to harness the full power of the library  leveraging Anthem’s expertise in launching highly-successful global FAST digital channels to create all-new themed channels specifically based around their unique content offerings,” according to the press release.

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“This is a significant step forward for Anthem in its mission to build a next-generation media company that is primed for the digital future, keeping Anthem ahead of the curve with the current trajectory of the fast-paced streaming-first entertainment ecosystem,” Leonard Asper, founder and CEO of Anthem, said in a statement. “Gravitas is a world leader in film and documentary distribution and provides Anthem with a major presence across the top digital platforms. We are happy to welcome Nolan, Michael, Brendan, Brian and the Gravitas team on board, and to broaden our shareholder base to include Gravitas Ventures’ management and Red Arrow Studios. We are excited to build upon the incredible success that they have already achieved.”

“Anthem perfectly complements Gravitas Ventures’ mindset and mission, presenting several major platforms where our films can thrive while opening up dynamic new areas and opportunities that will be vital in helping our company grow,” Nolan Gallagher, founder of Gravitas, said in a statement. “They have had tremendous success with all of their acquired properties, taking a hands-on approach that shows a great understanding for their unique products and what it takes to keep them on top in this highly competitive industry. We feel confident being a part of a talented Anthem team that is more than equipped to lead the charge for our filmmakers on this journey, and we could not be more excited to begin this new era in the legacy of Gravitas Ventures.”

Horror Drama ‘Autumn Road’ Travels to VOD Nov. 23 From Gravitas Ventures

The horror drama Autumn Road will come out on VOD Nov. 23 from Gravitas Ventures and The Last Motel.  

The film follows a young woman who returns to her hometown 10 years after her sister vanished trick-or-treating. Along the way she becomes entangled with two idiosyncratic identical twins from her childhood who now run the town’s roadside haunted house. With nowhere else to go, she is drawn deeper and deeper into their world of scares, secrets, and enchanting house of horrors. While one twin pulls her closer, the other’s threats and scare tactics escalate to a breaking point where he must decide what lines he’s willing to cross. At the same time, her connection with her sister is growing as she starts to unearth new information about who she was and what happened that night all those years ago.

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Director Riley Cusick, who previously directed a number of shorts and appeared as an actor in Chelsea Stardust’s Satanic Panic and Joe Begos’ VFW, makes his feature directorial debut in Autumn Road and headlines as twins Charlie and Vincent. Other cast members include Lorelei Linklater (Boyhood, Bomb City), Justin Meeks (Kill or Be Killed, Butcher Boys) and Lar Park Lincoln (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood).

 

Bigfoot Comedy, ‘Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre’ Among Titles Due on DVD in November From Gravitas Ventures

The comedy Bigfoot Famous and The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre are among the titles coming to DVD in November from Gravitas Ventures.

Bigfoot Famous is available now. In the film, when a viral video of Bigfoot emerges, a once popular influencer goes on a mission to film a vlog with Bigfoot and regain her fame. The comedy stars Stephanie Barkley, Chris Kleckner, Sam Milman, Lauren Howard Hayes, Anthony Ma, Kelsey Gunn, Marlon Webb and Chris Guerra.

The action horror comedy The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie is due Nov. 9. In the zombiefest, Wrestling’s most hated tag team, The Manson Brothers, now in the twilight of their careers and relegated to doing smaller wrestling promotions, take a midnight cage match on Halloween night, only to find themselves trapped in the arena with wrestlers and fans infected with a mutated rabies zombie virus. Armed only with their wrestling skills, and enchanted lucha libre masks, they must fight for their lives and ensure the virus is contained to prevent an all-out massacre and pandemic. It stars Max Martini, Adrian Pasdar, Randy Couture, Bas Rutten and D.B. Sweeney.

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The drama The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain comes out Nov. 16. The film is based on the true story of the events that led to the death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., an elderly African American veteran with bipolar disorder, who was killed during a conflict with police officers who were dispatched to check on him. It stars Frankie Faison, Steve O’Connell and Enrico Natale.

The sci-fi film Repeat will be released Nov. 19. A zealous cognitive psychologist stumbles across an unbelievable discovery-a way of communicating with the other side. His joy is short-lived, however, as his daughter is put into potentially grave danger. It stars Charlotte Ritchie, Nina Wadia, Ellila-Jean Wood and Tom England.

The documentary Lady Bugs is due Nov. 26. From a Latinx LGBTQ activist to a Black Catholic school principal, six small businesswomen hit California’s newly legal cannabis trade. But as aggressive regulations bogart the market, can they each keep their green American dream alight?

The actioner Hustle Down will be release Nov. 30. A two-bit hustler finds himself relying on bounty hunter, to evade the grasps of a merciless assassin, and vicious thugs led by a rival gang leader, after he steals a money car stuffed with cash meant for his boss. It stars Tom Sizemore, Bai Ling, Kevin Gage, Paul Sidhu, Noel Gugliemi, Vanessa Angel and Raymond J. Barry.

 

 

AFM Panelists: Disc Still Spinning at Independent Studios

While much of the discussion among panelists at the virtual American Film Market running Nov. 1-5 has been about digital distribution, independent supplier speakers have also noted that physical disc is still an important part of the pipeline.

“We still will release a DVD and Blu-ray on each film,” said Michael Murphy, president of Gravitas Ventures. “That’s going to be manufacture-on-demand in most cases. Our filmmakers like that, and if we can do it in a cost-effective manner, it’s still worth it.”

Disc revenue is still hanging on and filling the coffers at Screen Media.

At Screen, DVD has been a surprisingly stubborn revenue stream,” said Michael Messina, EVP of distribution at Screen Media. “And it’s actually grown for us in recent years after obviously dropping for a very long time. The past two to three years we’ve seen strong DVD sales.”

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J.J. Caruth, president of domestic marketing and distribution at The Avenue, noted Redbox is a key part of keeping the disc spinning.

“We’re still seeing some DVD revenue and, of course, Redbox is a part of that,” he said. “If you can do a deal with Redbox, there’s definitely some money to be made there as well for the right genre of movie.”

AFM Panel: Digital Marketplace Shifting to PVOD, AVOD and FAST

The digital marketplace is shifting, said panelists at the virtual American Film Market Nov. 1. Premium VOD has accelerated during the pandemic while subscription services’ pullback from buying independent content has made free ad-supported services such as AVOD and FAST the new target for content distributors.

The pandemic made PVOD a necessary distribution model, said Michael Murphy, president of Gravitas Ventures. As it subsides, “it’s going to be interesting” to see if the move to PVOD continues, he said.

“Let the consumer decide how they’re going to spend their dollars,” he said, noting a Gravitas release scheduled for January will have a 21-day theatrical window followed by PVOD.

“The splits in PVOD are better than the splits in theatrical,” he noted, adding “we still believe in the theatrical moviegoing experience.”

“We’re experimenting as the world continues to evolve,” he said.

Greg Barnard, director of content and acquisitions, at Vizio, said that based on the data collected via the company’s Smartcast system, consumers are turning more and more to free ad-supported content.

“People are looking for free options,” he said. “They’re looking to watch free content somewhere. It’s a very high-search term.”

Ad-supported free services are “breathing new life into our library” as SVOD services such as Netflix have “scaled back the number of films they acquire and what they want to pay,” Murphy added.

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Noting that Peacock has licensed a lot of content from Gravitas, he said, “It’s a little bit of a gold rush now in AVOD.”

Discovery and marketing in the digital space is still a work in progress, they said.

“Sometimes, it’s thought that you’ve got to do traditional television, traditional commercials for an awareness campaign,” Murphy said. “With PVOD, we felt that you could be a little bit more specific in your spends, try to spend maybe with the platform, spend with Amazon. And also knowing that although maybe someone’s not going to rent the movie on Amazon, everyone goes to Amazon to shop, so it’s kind of two birds with one stone there. You can get an awareness campaign, as well as potentially a click through or tap through to that ultimate buy.”

“Making content easy to find, discoverable, accessible … is absolutely critical to what we’re doing,” Barnard said. Placement on the screen of the smart TV is prime real estate.

“We own all the marketing on our platform, and that’s really powerful for us,” he said.

Packaging content and gathering the right creative for the digital space is key, they said.

Vizio likes collections around “a series, a moment, a vertical,” he said, adding he’d rather have all the seasons of two series, rather than just one or two seasons of 10 series.

To attract viewers, Vizio often asks for better creative.

“Creative that is just not intriguing enough” for the digital space is a common problem, he said.

Murphy noted he “just added some horsepower to our creative team” with a new hire.

“We need to be more aggressive and forward leaning with our providers,” he said.

Despite the move to digital distribution, Murphy said Gravitas hasn’t abandoned physical disc release, if it’s cost effective, mostly via manufacture on demand.

“Our filmmakers like it,” he said.

‘The Subject’ Available Now For Digital Purchase From Gravitas Ventures

The drama The Subject is available now in limited theatrical release and on TVOD and digital platorms from Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company.

Director/producer Lanie Zipoy’s (“17 Things I Wish I Could Tell You Since You Died,” “Kid Sister”) feature film directorial debut features a screenplay by New York native Chisa Hutchinson’s (Showtime’s “Three Women” and Hulu’s “Tell Me Lies”).

The film stars Jason Biggs (“Orange Is the New Black” and American Pie), Aunjanue Ellis (“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Emmy nominee for “Lovecraft Country”),  Anabelle Acosta (“Quantico,” “Ballers”), Carra Patterson (Straight Outta Compton, and Disney+’s “Turner & Hooch”), Nile Bullock (“Ray Donovan,” “Bull”), and Caleb Eberhardt  (“Judas and the Black Messiah,” “The Post”).

In the film, Phil Waterhouse (Biggs) is a successful documentary filmmaker with a thriving career, brilliant girlfriend, and a lovely suburban home. His last film — The Price of Brotherhood — was a rousing critical and commercial success. During its making, though, baby-faced Harlem teenager Malcolm was murdered. Now, journalists, who once lauded him, hound Phil about his role in Malcolm’s death, and he is haunted by fears he could have prevented it. While working on his latest project, someone films his every move. With the tables turned, Phil is unnerved being the subject of someone else’ s movie. As his world collapses around him, he preps for a showdown with the person who threatens all that he holds dear.

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The Subject is shot on four different cameras — one for the documentary about Malcolm, one for Phil’s new documentary  footage, the narrative camera and a consumer camera that is used to record Phil. Each camera offers a different viewpoint on the world, coalescing into a film that asks viewers how exactly we belong to each other in this fractured world.

Gravitas Ventures to Bow Horror Anthology ‘Isolation’ on VOD Nov. 2

Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight  have acquired U.S. and Canadian rights to horror anthology Isolation, which will have its North American premiere Oct. 15 at Screamfest L.A., followed by a release on VOD platforms Nov. 2.

The film is a feature-length anthology, weaving together nine standalone yet interconnected tales of terror from all corners of the world as people confront their darkest fears in an attempt to survive an increasingly deadly pandemic. The film had its world premiere in London at FrightFest U.K. 2021.

Director and producer Nathan Crooker created a fictional world many months into the future that is based around the current global pandemic. All 11 filmmakers used the same unifying framework in creating their stories. The filmmakers were tasked with how to stay creative using only what was available to them at the time. They were not allowed to use Zoom or any other video conferencing services and were only allowed to use the equipment and resources they had with them when they entered into lockdown, including cast and crew, adhering to their respective COVID-19 protocols.

Isolation directors include Dennie Gordon, (“Jack Ryan,” “Legion,” “Hunters,” “Waco”),  Larry Fessenden (“The Last Winter,” “Habit,” “Depraved”), Bobby Roe (“The Houses October Built” one and two), Andrew Kasch, (“Tales of Halloween”), Zach Passero (“Wicked Lake”), Christian Pasquariello (“Alien Invasion: S.U.M. 1”), Alexandra Neary (“The Innocent”), Alix Austin and Keir Siewert (“Retch”), and Kyle I. Kelley and Adam Brown (“The Music Lesson”).

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“We are thrilled to be working with Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight in bringing this unnerving and suspenseful anthology out into the world,” Crooker said in a statement. “Making this film with the many talented directors was such a rewarding process, and I am incredibly proud of having created a story unlike anything else in the horror genre.”

“This bloody take on COVID-esque isolation makes us look at our own darkest fears,” Megan Huggins, acquisitions coordinator for Gravitas Ventures, said in a statement. “Using an anthology format, the various filmmakers have shown us how citizens of the world are one and the same when confronted by a terrifying outbreak, but how we survive is different.”

“It’s always fun working with new directors and veterans to create something unique to the times we are living in,” Andrew van den Houten of Kamikaze Dogfight said in a statement. “This grouping of films brings some thought-provoking ideas to the mix in the genre and gives the audience lots to feast upon.”

Death Row Records Doc, Kelsey Grammer Starrer Among Titles Available on Disc in October From Gravitas Ventures

The documentary Last Man Standing: Suge Knight and the Murders of Biggie & Tupac, the Kelsey Grammer romantic drama Charming the Hearts of Men and the sci-fi mystery Infinitum: Subject Unknown are among the titles being released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc by Gravitas Ventures in October.

Infinitum: Subject Unknown

Infinitum: Subject Unknown, starring Ian McKellen, Conleth Hill and Tori Butler-Hart, debuts on disc Oct. 5. The film follows Jane (Butler-Hart), who wakes up in a strange attic, in a parallel world, with seemingly no way out. She soon discovers that she is stuck in a time-loop, destined to relive the same day over and over again. With each “reset” she begins to reclaim her memories and piece together the clues to what is happening to her and the world around her, which seems to now be devoid of human life. Only through the help of Marland-White (McKellen) she will uncover the truth to help her escape from this never-ending nightmare.

Charming the Hearts of Men, starring Grammer, Anna Friel, Sean Astin and Courtney Gains, is available Oct. 12. In the romantic drama set during the politically charged early 1960s, a sophisticated woman returns to her southern hometown and discovers her options are limited yet discrimination is plentiful. With the help of a congressional ally, she inspires historic legislation which allows opportunities and protections never before afforded to women.

The documentary Last Man Standing: Suge Knight and the Murders of Biggie & Tupac is available Oct. 19. Suge Knight, the former CEO of legendary rap music label Death Row Records, was recently sentenced to 28 years in prison for manslaughter and other violent crimes not typically associated with a highly successful record executive. This film takes a look at Death Row and how L.A.’s street gang culture had come to dominate its business workings. The film also looks at the allegation of former LAPD detective Russel Poole that the reprisal killing of Biggie Smalls, a retaliation to the murder of Tupac, was commissioned by Suge Knight with the help of corrupt LAPD officers who were moonlighting at Death Row Records. These police officers were also members of Suge’s criminal gang the Mob Piru’s and with their resources helped orchestrate the hit on Biggie Smalls. The film produces new evidence and witnesses who actually saw these LAPD officers present on the night of Biggie’s murder, and who also testify that critical information had been deliberately withheld and concealed by the LAPD.

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Another documentary, At the Ready, debuts Oct. 22. Just 10 miles from the Mexican border, students at Horizon High School in El Paso, Texas, are enrolling in law enforcement classes and joining a unique after-school activity: the criminal justice club. Through mock-ups of drug raids and active-shooter takedowns, they inch closer to their desired careers in Border Patrol, policing, and customs enforcement. The documentary follows Mexican American students Kassy and Cesar and recent graduate Cristina as they navigate the complications inherent in their chosen path and discover their choices may clash with the values and people they hold most dear.

Between Me and My Mind

Gravitas will release a third documentary, Between Me and My Mind, Oct. 26. As the frontman of the rock band Phish, Trey Anastasio’s virtuosic musicianship has made him an icon, beloved by his die-hard fanbase for the depth of his artistic output and the boundless enthusiasm that he exudes, both onstage and off. Between Me and My Mind offers a private and unprecedented tour of Anastasio’s musical mind as he focuses on the composing process that has produced hundreds of memorable songs over his 35-plus year career. In the film, Anastasio reflects intimately on his life and work while surrounded by his family and friends, those that nurture his creative inspiration.

True Crime Drama ‘Last Testament’ Coming to VOD Oct. 19 From Gravitas Ventures

Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to distribute writer-director Anthony Catalano’s Last Testament. It will be released Oct. 19 on VOD, with DVD and Blu-ray releases to follow.

The indie true crime drama was produced by Catalano and stars Dominick Alesia, Anna Roemer and Rima Sabal.

Last Testament explores the true story of Ricky Rodriguez and the Children of God cult. Born into the infamous cult, Ricky (Dominick Alesia) was subjected to years of abuse while also being groomed to one day lead the cult. He was finally able to escape with his wife Elixcia (Anna Roemer), but he remained haunted by his past. Ricky reaches a breaking point and he vows to take down the cult and its leaders — including his mother — by any means necessary.

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“As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and someone who struggles with mental illness, I became fascinated by the harrowing story of Ricky Rodriguez,” Catalano said in a statement. “His story isn’t a happy one, it isn’t easy or convenient, but it’s one that needs to be known.”

Last Testament was filmed in Northeast Wisconsin in May 2020, just as statewide COVID restrictions were being lifted. Its world premiere was held at the 2021 Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival, where Anthony Catalano was nominated for Best Experimental Feature Filmmaker.

Last Testament Trailer #2 from Dead Letter Productions on Vimeo.