The Movie Studio Trying to Survive on Risk Taking Alone

At this year’s Academy Awards, only two studios saw multiple feature films take home Oscars: Universal, which made Green Book and First Man, and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, which won a trophy apiece for If Beale Street Could Talk and Vice. The two wins weren’t the most dazzling stat of the night, but they were a nice achievement for Annapurna, which had a rocky year punctuated by stories about its financial instability. After an initial report in October that the company was being forced into a “more responsible” direction by Ellison’s father, the tech billionaire Larry Ellison, another story ran this month in Variety alleging that almost every 2018 film released by Annapurna was a box-office failure.

Since Megan Ellison launched it in 2011, Annapurna has been a curious beast, starting out as a production company before evolving into a sort of mini-studio that distributes movies itself. Unlike indie studios such as A24 or IFC, Annapurna has the resource to lavish sizable budgets on ambitious films made by big-name directors. Rumors of its financial hardships suggest that kind of risk-taking might soon become a thing of the past for the company—a sad prospect considering the great work it has produced of late. Annapurna’s reported troubles are just further evidence that Hollywood has become an industry where the best way to stay afloat is by embracing either crowd-pleasing blockbusters (as big studios have done) or sheer quantity (à la Netflix and its competitors). So far, Ellison appears committed to a different path.

Annapurna’s 2018 slate included Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers (budgeted at $38 million, it grossed $3.1 million domestically); If Beale Street Could Talk (which Variety reported as a write-down of $8 to $10 million); Vice (which was nominated for Best Picture but will reportedly cost the company at least $15 million); and Karyn Kusama’s cop drama, Destroyer (a reported $7 million loss). Though all of these films received positive reviews, none managed to turn a profit at the box office, according to Variety, with the exception of Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, which was made for a smaller budget and became a surprise summer hit.

Annapurna does have some safer projects on the horizon, thanks to a joint venture with MGM called United Artists Releasing that will launch the upcoming James Bond movie in 2020. But Ellison’s dream of

Source:: The Atlantic – Culture


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