Monday, June 30, 2008

Funny Games Over

In a really eerie twist of fate, four days after my article on Funny Games, co-producer Tartan Films has closed shop. If you didn't believe me when I wrote that arthouse is dead, the staggering facts are now staring you in the face. Not that I am wallowing in this news; I have greatly admired the vision and business of Hamish McAlpine, ever since I met with him in the late nineties.

Apparently the losses on Funny Games were the final straw, suffocating Tartan to the point first the US branch closed, then the company went into administration.

It is sad that a company that had been fighting, at times very successfully, to bring groundbreaking cinema to its specialist audience, is now punished for just doing that.

In the worst case scenario, this could be really bad news for film lovers in the UK and the US. It often happens in situations of bankruptcy that film rights end up in a no-mans-land.

I am not an expert but I understand that creditors sometimes exercise power over what happens to the assets of the company in trouble. Here, the assets are movie rights and if a dispute arises between creditors, rights can be broken up, requiring the approval of several parties before they can be exploited.

In the worst case, a situation arises in which it just becomes too complex - and too expensive - to allow the film in the market again, sometimes for a long, long time. And fans may have to wait for years before their favourite title is available again in cinemas, on disk, on TV.

Even in those cases where the rights simply revert back to the original rights holders, it is not always in the interest of the film(s). Often those rights holders just don't have the passion of someone like Hamish McAlpine who would move heaven and earth to get a movie out to the audience.

As we have seen happening this time again, investing in getting these films 1) made and 2) released can be an expensive exercise.

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