Tough news out of Hollywood this morning, as Broad Green Pictures is shutting down its production division and laying off 20 percent of its 75-person staff, as well as letting go of nearly 50 development projects that will soon be free to be set up elsewhere.
In an incredibly candid interview with Deadline, Broad Green CEO Gabriel Hammond and his brother, chief creative officer Daniel Hammond, are reassessing the future of the company following their “humbling” experience in the movie business, but they are not planning to leave the industry, contrary to rumors. The billionaire brothers would rather restart than retreat.
Broad Green is pressing pause on production for the time being, and production chief Matt Alvarez is expected to exit the company once his contract expires later this year. In an odd twist, Alvarez will help the Hammonds transition projects out of Broad Green, including John Ridley’s L.A. Riots movie and the Michael Fassbender-led serial killer thriller Entering Hades. The Hammonds will likely remain producers on the projects that do manage to get set up elsewhere.
The company is expected to hang on to its big prestige project Just Mercy, which has Michael B. Jordan attached to star and Destin Daniel Cretton attached to direct, and it still plans to release the Morgan Freeman/Rene Russo/Tommy Lee Jones movie Villa Capri in November. The Hammonds can only hope will perform similar to its Robert Redford-led festival acquisition A Walk In the Woods, which was one of Broad Green’s biggest hits.
Broad Green most recently released Wish Upon, which barely recouped its $12 million budget. And that teenage genre film was considered an attempt to take the company in a more commercial direction following flops like 99 Homes and The Infiltrator, both of which were really good movies! It’s one thing if you don’t have the goods, but it’s another when you actually have the goods and just botch the release. I mean, when you have a legitimately solid movie like 99 Homes and you can’t crack $2 million, that’s a problem.
Broad Green also seemed pleased as pie to distribute Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, which certainly lent itself to a cool trailer, but proved to be another dog that made no money. And as stoked as I know the Hammonds were to be in business with a legend like Terrence Malick, I was someone who couldn’t stand The Tree of Life, so when they told me over lunch how great this arrangement was and how honored they were to be in business with him, I was as skeptical as my former boss. After all, Malick movies are a nice star-studded idea in theory (same with the ill-fated Bad Santa 2), but they’re not exactly indie tentpoles.
The Hammonds aren’t what you might call “Hollywood naturals.” They’re financial whiz kids who made their money in mutual funds. They always loved movies, and they figured they could use what they’ve learned over the years and apply it to the film business. Of course, Hollywood isn’t like any other business, and like many millionaires who come to LA with big dreams and big wallets, the Hammonds were in for a rude awakening.
To their credit, the brothers admit to being naive about the industry, and they have owned up to their mistakes. And unlike Relativity, those mistakes are only coming back to haunt them, rather than outside investors, since the Hammonds built Broad Green with their own money. They’ll keep it going as long as their blockbuster bank accounts can sustain the strain.
Of course, the independent business is tough for everyone these days, not just Broad Green. The money quote from Deadline’s sympathetic piece comes from Gabriel Hammond.
“It is very tough to make money in the independent space. I can’t tell you how many people I congratulated for their films during the last Oscar season, only to hear them grouse that even they didn’t know if the films were going to end up making any money. So even when you win, you might not make money,” he said, and I believe him.
You’ve gotta spend more and more money to make less and less money in today’s CGI-fueled marketplace. Basically, it’s hard out their for an indie pimp.
Going forward, Broad Green will be looking to make an experienced outside hire, and that search is already said to have started. We’ll see who wants to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of turning things around at the company, which boasts cool office space in Hollywood. I like the Hammonds personally and would work for them in a heartbeat, so I wish them well as they set a new course for the company.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief