Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Friday, May 3 2013
Everything’s Coming Up Roses

When your first proper full movie release takes something like £44 million at UK cinemas and shifts more than 2 million units in its first couple of months (on its way to 2.5 million sales to date), you’d be forgiven for thinking that a company such as 4DVD would have jumped headfirst into the feature film market.

But the video arm of the mighty Channel 4 empire has taken a far more softly-softly approach to getting more involved in the film side of the market.

And now, almost two years after The Inbetweeners Movie made its debut at UK cinemas, the company is gearing itself up for not just one but three film releases in 2013, with more likely to follow.

The industry is, of course, littered with companies who’ve succeeded with one film and think they have the magic touch, ignoring the risks and skeletons by the roadside. But 4DVD has bided its time and, as 2012 became 2013, the perfect opportunity has presented itself.

The timing couldn’t have been better, as 4DVD’s David Root explains: “The film market is challenging and all the time when film was challenging, non-film was pretty robust. TV and comedy were, if not boom genres, healthy parts of the market.

“But,” Root continues, “comedy had one of its weaker years [last year] and competing services such as vod and pvrs are having an effect on sales within the TV genre now. We won’t be alone in needing to constantly be looking at our business, and focusing on areas where we can achieve a good commercial result.”

And so, feature films became the obvious choice: “It’s a huge part of the market,” Root says, “but it’s incredibly competitive. Film is more resilient than some of the other genres and so it makes sense for us to look at film selectively.”

Of course, with the huge success of The Inbetweeners Movie behind it, 4DVD has shown its sister Film4 arm just how it can do. As Root notes: “We’d demonstrated success, which allowed us to get a foot in the door with the rest of the channel in terms of discussing further film projects.

“And although The Inbetweeners was an extension of the brand, it showed something could be done, there could be an opportunity on film.”

There were other ways in which the stars were aligned too. Root says: “Releasing The Inbetweeners Movie meant we were working more closely with Film4, there became more of a regular dialogue there. Then it launched a new label called Film 4.0, which fully funds films and that gives a lot more flexibility to the channel to manage the rights as they want. Previously with Film4, the company would put up the development money, get money in for TV rights, but it’s a big investment and a studio would get the bulk of the rights.”

The first fully funded Film 4.0 release will be A Field In England, the next film from the prolific Ben Wheatley, a spooky tale set during the English Civil War. “It was the best way to manage the rights and it gives us the opportunity to be involved,” says Root.

4DVD had existing relationships not just with Film4, but also Warp and the production outfit’s leading collaborator Shane Meadows that led to one of its key projects. The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone is the director’s documentary that follows the hugely influential band reforming last year, as well as charting their turbulent history. Here, the opportunity for 4DVD to get involved came early and, as Root says: “It just seemed like a really good opportunity to continue our relationship with Warp and Shane Meadows, both highly respected powerhouses within film and TV.”

Beyond that, there’s The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology, a documentary that promises to be as fascinating as its title suggests.

As well as the close working relationship with Film4 and production outfits such as Warp, there’s also another major party involved, Picturehouse Entertainment, the distribution arm of the cinema chain. Picturehouse (and Film4) were working with Revolver, but the company slipping into administration had put paid to that alliance, even though titles such as The Imposter were performing strongly. “It’s an ideal partner for us to work with,” says Root, “and we’re an ideal partner for [the company]. It’s a theatre owner, but also a theatrical distributor, and it makes no claims to DVD so it’s a very good fit.”

It will be interesting to see if the involvement of 4DVD will make any difference to release strategies, perhaps playing with the windows, although 4DVD has confirmed that Made Of Stone, with a June release at cinemas will follow the standard route, with a four month theatrical to home entertainment window. “We will be exploring possibilities,” Root explains.

“It’s very, very exciting,” says 4DVD’s Karla Berry. “We’re working with some really exciting talent and we’re dipping our toe in the water with some very exciting projects.”

That’s not to say that 4DVD is forgetting its roots. “We’ve still got our areas of strength,” says Karla Berry. Stand-up will be well represented with the likes of Micky Flanagan returning for his sophomore outing, alongside other returning acts and new signings too, while there’s also its other mainstay, TV fare, courtesy of the likes of the third series of Miranda and, a new face for the label, Ricky Gervais in his much-talked about Derek, and brand new comedy Vicious which launched earlier this week to 5.7m viewers (“ITV’s highest rated comedy in more than 10 years,” adds Berry.)

“We’ll still be strong in stand-up and TV and now selective film projects too,” she explains.

And there could be more to come too. Expect more announcements, especially with comedy signings, and maybe another film project. “We’re feeling our way into it at the moment,” concludes David Root. “We’re not going to go off to markets with a shopping list. We’re looking to supplement [these films] with considered titles. There’s a good chance of more films before the end of the year.”

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