Altitude Forms Joint Venture With Former YouTube EMEA Head And Renews Saban Films 10th Anniversary Deal (EXCLUSIVE) – Variety | Episode Movies

Altitude Media Group chairman Will Clarke describes an “aha moment” in 2019 when he realized his UK film company urgently needed to diversify its revenue streams from the cinema model in order to survive. MO’s postponement may have been prompted by then-starved streamers, but it was a timely wake-up call given the disruption that followed with the pandemic less than 18 months later. Three years later, Lady Macbeth and Rocks distributor Altitude is marking its 10th anniversary with a vertically integrated company with a firm eye on the pipeline.

“I knew that if we just stuck to the traditional model, we wouldn’t survive,” says Clarke diversity his well-timed pre-COVID-19 brainstorm. “It’s about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and learning new things – some of which have taken me down different paths that have probably ended in dead ends but have learned from each one.”

The 51-year-old British executive – whose passion for cinema is evident in the film podcasts and horror recommendations he offers alongside his commercial vision for the company – founded Altitude in 2012 after selling his production and distribution company Optimum Releasing to Studiocanal had sold in 2006. He founded the new company with partner Andy Mayson, who is co-CEO, and brought in former Pathé executive Mike Runagall to lead the distribution arm, Altitude Film Sales.

While the company initially focused on sales, it got into distribution early with the appointment of Hamish Moseley (who joined Netflix earlier this year). With a solid reputation for art house cooking mixed with the occasional genre and action powerhouse, Altitude is now recognized as one of the UK’s finest independent distributors, having released everything from Russian drama Loveless and British hit Rocks to pandemic actioner “Unhinged”. and Laura Poitras’ forthcoming Golden Lion of Venice documentary, All The Beauty and the Bloodshed, for which it is also responsible for international distribution.

Elsewhere, the production department has picked up momentum with films like Butcher’s Crossing and Alex Gibney’s forthcoming Two Wolves, starring Viggo Mortensen and Caleb Landry Jones, while sales operations continue to thrive. AFM projects include the Nobel Peace Prize thriller The Prize, starring Jason Clarke and Haley Bennett, and the Red Bull-backed documentary The Flight of Bryan, about a historic human-powered flight.

diversity can reveal that Altitude Film Sales has also expanded a global distribution deal with Saban Films beyond the UK and Ireland, with plans to partner for a slate of 10 to 12 films a year. The first cast includes Jason Momoa’s western, The Last Manhunt, about the legend of Willie Boy; “Battle for Saipan,” directed by Brandon Slagle; and the action comedy High Heat, directed by Zach Golden and starring Olga Kurylenko and Don Johnson.

“We were very single-minded as we expanded the development,” says Clarke. The total slate, which includes feature films, documentaries, TV series and third-party films, amounts to around 60-65 projects.

While Clarke initially single-handedly endorsed Altitude, he proudly explains that the extensive list “is all paid for off our own balance sheet.” The turning point, he explains, was the large minority stake that was sold in 2020 for an undisclosed sum to investment firm 30West, which famously bought a majority stake in “Parasite” distributor Neon in 2018.

What influence does Dan Friedkin’s 30West have on Altitude? “It’s a cash injection that helped us, but it’s more strategic than that,” Clarke says, especially when “the leader’s ambitions outweigh them [his] ability sometimes.”

There’s a clue in the name: what was once Altitude Film Entertainment is now Altitude Media Group (founded as such in January). It’s a small thing, Clarke shrugs, but it speaks to profound organizational change and a more concerted expansion into television and documentaries.

diversity can reveal that Altitude is forming a joint venture with Pangea, a new production company founded by former YouTube EMEA Originals boss Luke Hyams and producer Sunita Mirchandani Hyams to explore youth and youth-oriented projects for film and television and with emerging Companies collaborate with digital creators both on and off the screen.

Altitude has entered into a joint venture with Pangea, a new production company founded by former YouTube EMEA Originals boss Luke Hyams (right) and producer Sunita Mirchandani Hyams (left).

Hyams, a respected executive well known to the TV community, has commissioned documentaries including Terms and Conditions: A UK Drill Story, Warner Music Entertainment’s Together We Rise: The Uncompromised story of GRM Daily and Race Around Britain” with comics influencer Munya Chawawa. Meanwhile, Mirchandani’s credits include “Big Boys Don’t Cry” and “The Great British Menu.” Clarke hopes to work with Pangea on projects related to the teenage British films Blue Story and The Inbetweeners.

Elsewhere, a 2019 joint venture with Los Angeles-based Peter Rabbit producer Jason Lust’s Soluble Fish for high-end family films and TV is also close to its first project, Clarke promises. “Even though I know the development process inside and out, it just takes a lot longer to land some of these larger pieces of IP,” he admits.

However, Altitude is willing to wait for those big swings, especially with the resources of a 30West behind it. Like most film and television companies worth their salt in today’s market, owning intellectual property and building a pipeline of content is everything, especially in the dynamic and more flexible world of television. But that doesn’t mean Altitude is moving away from the theater, Clarke warns. Ironically, the company had one of its best years during the pandemic. While striving for more ‘innovative’ VOD releases, the company was also one of the few UK distributors to bring major films to theatres. The Russell Crowe-directed Unhinged, which was released in July 2020, grossed $2.5 million at the UK box office.

“We are not deviating from that in any way [theatrical]’ Clarke emphasizes. “If anything we welcome it and you’ll see us making some big strides because I think the market is going to come back and there’s been some green shoots over the past few months.” On Altitude’s forthcoming UK releases and Ireland includes Georgia Oakley’s critically acclaimed Blue Jean and All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.

But it’s hard to ignore the pieces that didn’t work, Clarke says.

“There’s a responsibility now to do things on a different level,” he says. “You can’t just throw films out there and expect audiences to embrace them. We need to give them something they don’t see at home, where they have a shared experience.”

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