Indie Suppliers a ‘Blessing’

If you really want to get an idea of how fast the home entertainment industry is changing, talk to any of the independent suppliers who are still going at it, competing with the big studios and their theatrical blockbusters.

As Ringo Starr would say, it don’t come easy.

Studios generally release their films on all the major platforms: Blu-ray Disc, DVD, digital, on demand, and, increasingly, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Indies, however, typically have to pick and choose, because just as not all movies warrant a wide theatrical release, when it’s time for them to be sent home some platforms work better than others, depending on the film.

And yet despite the challenges and obstacles, our industry is still blessed with a handful of indie stalwarts, from Cinedigm and Magnolia to Random Media, a film company headed by Eric Doctorow, who from 1983 to 2003 was president of worldwide home entertainment for Paramount Pictures.

I say “blessed” because without indies, home entertainment would consist primarily of big-budget blockbusters already familiar to viewers from their successful theatrical runs.

Independent home entertainment suppliers add variety to the mix. They also give independent filmmakers a chance to find an audience and maybe even make some money so they can continue to produce quality films and documentaries that otherwise might never be made.

And we must never forget that the indies are the ones who built this business. The home entertainment industry might have been launched more than 40 years ago when Andre Blay licensed 50 movies from 20th Century Fox and released them on videocassette under the Magnetic Video banner.

But the industry didn’t begin to grow and prosper until mom-and-pop video rental stores began to spring up all over the country, their growth fueled through the against-the-grain concept of “consumer dissatisfaction.”

Not only were the big studios dead-set against retailers renting their movies to the public, but when the courts ultimately ruled in favor of the retailers Hollywood had a hard time keeping up with the demand. Retailers soon discovered that the public’s appetite for movies was so voracious that if the latest studio hit wasn’t available, they’d be perfectly content with picking up something else. Shrewd mom-and-pops invested heavily in a broad selection of product and purposely limited the copies of the hits they brought in — figuring, correctly, that if customers were immediately “satisfied” with the latest theatrical hit, they’d rent it and leave. But if customers didn’t find what they were looking for, they’d pick up one or two or even three other movies, based on box art, posters or personal recommendations from movie-savvy clerks.

This successful, albeit unconventional, business model collapsed after the big chains got involved. Blockbuster, in particular, figured it could put the little guys out of business by promising consumers guaranteed availability of the latest theatrical hits — failing to realize it was merely sealing its own doom. “Big Blue” ran expensive ad campaigns and built massive “new release” walls packed with the latest theatrical hits.

I am convinced this focus on the hits led to a decline in consumer rental spending and paved the way for DVD, with studios jumping at the chance to sell their movies to consumers instead of rental dealers. Indie product suffered even more: consumers who used to rent three or four movies a week for $10 from the local video rental store were now spending twice that amount to buy the latest theatrical hit at Walmart or Best Buy. Yes, they were digging deeper into their pocketbooks, which made Hollywood very happy. But they were watching fewer movies.

Ultimately, the DVD bubble burst — and we all know the rest.  So thank God for the persevering indies who are keeping the spirit of the business alive – and independent film makers in business.

‘Funeral Day,’ ‘Sacred Blood’ Top Random Media Summer Release Slate

Random Media, the content company headed by former Paramount Pictures home video chief Eric Doctorow, has announced the following release schedule for June and July. All releases are digital, with a DVD available through MOD (manufacturing on demand).

Funeral Day, June 12: The darkly funny story about Scott, a neurotic young man, who thinks he’s found a lump on his testicles. Fearing he might be dying, he skips his friend’s funeral in an attempt to start living life to the fullest.  Watch trailer here.

Sacred Blood, June 19: After being bitten by a vampire, NATIA leaves her native country of Georgia and arrives in San Francisco. Natia tries to understand what is happening to her as she is confronted with a violent darkness rooting within her. Fighting against her loneliness and the rules of this new world, she is befriended by a troubled young artist with an innocent soul. Will this tenuous love lead her out of trouble or will they both be pulled into the darkness? Watch trailer here.

Pow Wow, June 26: In the Coachella Valley, country clubbers prepare for their annual Pow Wow party. The backdrop for this festivity is a native American youth named Willie Boy who outran a mounted posse on foot across 500 miles of desert 100 earlier. An experiment in comparative storytelling, as well as ethnographic study of the people of the Desert Empire, Pow Wow is a cinematic walkabout through the beauty and brutality of the Sonoran desert. Watch trailer here. 

Sunset, July 3:  A diverse group of people grapple with the imminent probability of a nuclear strike on the east coast of The United States. Watch trailer here.

Across The River,  July 17: Emma has it all. She’s a successful lawyer with a loving husband, two wonderful children and a beautiful home. Ryan is trying to build an elephant out of sand on the beach. He was her first love; it ended badly many years ago and they haven’t seen each other since… It’s awkward at first but they have one thing in common. A strike has paralyzed public transport and they need to get to their homes: quite close, but on opposite sides of the river. On their way they reminisce, argue, cry and laugh. They can never recapture what they had, but the memory of it tempts them. Watch trailer here.

Iron Brothers, July 31: Fur trappers Abel and Henry Iron struggle to make a living in a dying industry in the Rocky Mountains. Following in their late father’s footsteps, they travel the mountains searching for beaver, carving out a meager existence in the western wilderness. When Abel encounters a band of  Shoshone Indians, a misunderstanding leaves one Indian dead and the Iron Brothers on the run. Together, Abel and Henry flee into the mountains to escape the warriors that are pursuing them. In the end, they will learn if the bond of brotherhood is enough to save them.  Watch trailer here. 

Random Media acquires and distributes films on a worldwide basis through movie theaters, conventional brick and mortar retailers, digital platforms, cable and satellite companies and television networks.


Indie Random Media Announces Early 2018 Slate

Random Media has announced the acquisition and release dates for 12 new films in early 2018.

The initial 2018 slate includes worldwide debuts bowing on a variety of platforms including DVD, streaming and video-on-demand.

“We’re excited to start 2018 with a star-studded line-up of films from the extraordinary worldwide pool of filmmakers who are telling powerful stories with both narrative features and documentaries,” said Random Media CEO and founder Eric Doctorow.  “As we enter our company’s fourth year we continue to grow, driven by our dynamic distribution and platform partners.”

The Random Media feature film slate bowing from January to April includes:

  • Blue World Order, a sci-fi adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a virus starring Jake Ryan and Billy Zane, available now;
  • Dark Meridian, the story of a corrupt New Orleans detective who gets caught up in a fight between two criminal gangs, due Jan. 23;
  • From Hollywood to Rose, a comedy adventure about a middle-aged woman in a bridal gown who boards a city bus in the middle of the night, coming Feb. 6;
  • Lucky U Ranch, a 1950s period drama about a bullied 11-year-old Arizona boy befriended by a free-spirited Hollywood girl, due Feb. 13;
  • Sensitivity Training, a female buddy comedy about an abrasive microbiologist forced into sensitivity training with a personal coach, coming Feb. 27;
  • Josephine Doe, about two friends who find themselves in trouble with the law, which reveals an unsettling truth, due March 6;
  • Night Bird Song: The Incandescent Life of Thomas Chapin, a documentary about the life and music of the jazz great, coming March 20;
  • The Unattainable Story, the story of a controlling stage director starring Harry Hamlin, due March 27;
  • Trouble Is My Business, a 1940s noir story starring Vernon Wells and Brittney Powell, coming April 3;
  • Mighty Ground, a documentary that follows a homeless singer, due April 10;
  • The Aliens, a sci-fi drama about a UFO believer, coming April 17; and
  • The Depths, a psychological thriller about two screenwriters so desperate for success that they decide to fully explore the depths of murder and crime in their story, due April 24.