Where movie studios see trouble, Red Granite Pictures sees opportunities.
The new finance and distribution company’s business plan is both contrary and simple: Make the films the studios don’t.
Among its first projects are Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which comes out Wednesday, and next year’s “Dumb and Dumber To,” the intentionally misspelled sequel to the 1994 comedy.
On the surface, those pictures don’t exactly seem like the sort that a major studio would cast aside.
But both were complicated projects, fraught with thorny issues. Red Granite’s founders, Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland, said they thrive in these sorts of scenarios.
“One of our sweet spots is movies that have died in the studios — movies that are just great product that everyone was hot on but for some reason or another just didn’t make it to the greenlight stage,” said McFarland, 41, a Louisville, Ky., native who is Red Granite’s vice chairman.
McFarland and Aziz, Red Granite’s chairman, started the West Hollywood company in 2009. That year, they began working on their first film, the comedy “Friends With Kids,” which came out in 2012 and grossed $12 million worldwide.
They were also executive producers on the recent drama “Out of the Furnace,” which was released in early December, and co-produced “Horns,” a Daniel Radcliffe-starring horror film that will be distributed by Weinstein Co.’s Radius label next year.
Red Granite, which has 12 employees, has eschewed a template for producing pictures. In the case of “Out of the Furnace,” the company acquired the project’s international rights from Relativity Media and then used its own in-house foreign distribution arm, Red Granite International, to sell the movie overseas.
On “Wolf,” Red Granite struck a deal with Paramount Pictures to have the studio distribute and promote the movie domestically for a fee. Red Granite sold the international rights to the film, mitigating the company’s downside risk.
“Every movie is different,” said Aziz, 37, who is the son of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. “We are very flexible in the model we [can] pursue.”
Red Granite raises money from a pool of undisclosed investors in the Middle East and Asia, and finances its movies on a one-off basis. The company is able to greenlight a picture without a distribution deal in place. But because it doesn’t have a fund it can tap, Red Granite must convince its investors that an individual project is worth the risk, rather than having the comfort of money to underwrite an entire slate.
That’s a tough business to be in, because one flop could scare off investors.
Graham King, the veteran producer behind such critical and commercial hits as “The Departed” and “The Aviator,” knows the travails of this business well. He produced Scorsese’s expensive 2011 3-D family film “Hugo,” which won five Oscars but struggled at the box office.
“That’s when I started paying attention,” King said. “The studios know what they are talking about. They take the occasional risk and they know what attracts an audience.”
“Wolf” is no “Hugo” when it comes to cost, but with a price of roughly $100 million, it wasn’t cheap. Red Granite paid for it all — a big bet for a fledgling company.
According to those who have seen prerelease audience surveys, “Wolf” could have a five-day opening run of $25 million to $35 million. That could be enough to beat out the five other films opening wide Wednesday — “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” “47 Ronin,” “Grudge Match,” “Justin Bieber’s Believe” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”
It comes to the moment to reflect back what had happened the past 365 days. Many could and should be learned, if we really wanted to. However, the will is rather suspicious, considering that many of the mistakes were avoidable and/or actually were repeat items.
2013 was not a particularly a good year.
The year was kicked off with HRH Sultan of Selangor Tuanku Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah issued a titah about “Non Muslims are prohibited to use kalimah “Allah” and the term is exclusively for the Muslims only”, in the wake of controversy due to the demand of certain minority to want to do otherwise.
In February came the shocking news. Hundreds of armed men from Tawi Tawi Southern Philippines landed in Kg Tanduo near Lahad Datu. They demanded the cessation of Sabah and back into the realm of self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu. After 3 weeks of ‘talks’, the first skirmish broke on 1 March. Two Police commandos were killed. Two days later, they attacked a village in Semporna and 6 trapped Policemen were killed.
Two days later, in a joint operation between the Police and Armed Forces Ops Sulu was launched with the bombing of FELDA Sahabat 17.
It was the year the 13GE was held, which was actually at the final brim. Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak pushed several opportunities for an earlier date to call for the ‘Mother of All Elections’. Often, his excuse was he did not have enough space and opportunity to prepare although the four full years he led the nation as the 6th Prime Minister was actually equivalent to a full parliamentary term.
After being sworn in as the Prime Minister with his own mandate on 6 May 2013, Najib announced his Cabinet nine days later. The line up is baffling if not shocking, when deadwoods and political liabilities such as Dato’ Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor and Dato’ Seri Hassan Malek were included. Especially HINDRAF leader Wathyamoorthy, who was once considered as an ‘extremist’.
Despite having a very good manifesto, generally Malaysians were not taken in. With the exception of BN winning back Kedah at the 13GE polls on 5 May 2013, no other political score worth remembering about the year.
Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak got his own mandate as the BN Chairman with 133 seats In Dewan Rakyat in the ‘First past post system’ electoral process this nation adopted. Unfortunately, he faired worse than his predecessor exactly five years two months earlier, despite PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was dubbed ‘Sleepyhead Prime Minister’ and often caught dozing off in public functions.
In his initial reaction, Prime Minister Najib coined the term “Chinese Tsunami” for the very poor support amongst the Chinese towards BN despite his efforts to woo them.
The ‘Systemic Failure’ which almost brought BN as the ruling party and government of the day down to its knees, did not really have much affect on who Prime Minister Najib retain as part of his team and ‘inner circle’ and how things are done. Several of his own aides and advisers were believed to have made lots of money throughout the lengthy campaign that ran for over a year.
This is not withstanding the constant communications failure, formidably due to a web of complex network of media officers and advisers serving the Prime Minister is too many different circles. One of the glaring instance is the ‘Endless Possibilities’ campaign. When media officers who are supposed to facilitate news for the Prime Minister are themselves craving for news attention and validation, then the troff fit as pig’s swill gets thicker.
On 11 July 2013 in the early part of Ramadhan, Vatican Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur Apostolic Nuncio Joseph S. Marino stated his support for the Catholic Church’s publication The Herald quest to use kalimah “Allah” in place of God. That infuriated Muslims and demanded that Nuncio be expelled.
In late August, Defence Minister Dato’ Seri Hishamuddin Hussein did a faux pas when he spoke to the media after the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting hosted in Bandar Seri Begawan.
In September, in the exercise to realise ‘subsidy rationalisation’ Strategy to reduce the budget deficit and burdening subsidies by the Federal Government to the amount of RM43billion per annum, retail price of RON95 and diesel was summarily increased.
Two weeks later in the effort to address growing economic desparity issues and grouses amongst the Bumiputera, Prime Minister Najib announced the Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Plan. Although sounds good in passing, but when scrutinised from the practicality of achieving the desired objective many skeptics saw it as a rushed plan without proper thought-through.
October was a month of UMNO internal party polls. One of the three promises made when he assumed the 7th UMNO Presidency on 28 March 2009 was the ‘democratisation of UMNO’. Although it has been continuously harped that UMNO went through a ‘Transformation’ process where the decision makers of top echelon posts were expanded by 8000%, the result brought upon little ‘transformation’ as ‘Status Quo’ was maintained.
Prime Minister Najib’s fifth Budget was remarked as a well presented budget. Although many goodies were offered which include efforts to curb speculative trading on the growing escalation of price of houses and programs for affordable home ownership for the lower and middle income, the announcement of introduction of 6% GST from 2013 onwards did not augur well with majority of Malaysians.
The other wonderful news for the year was that on 14 October the Court of Appeal unanimously decided against the High Court ruling for the Catholic church publication The Herald four years earlier.
In December, was the final touch to the icing of the cake. Prime Minister Najib demonstrated his true self of being obtuse. When Prime Minister Najib is his rebuttal speech of the 64th UMNO General Assembly praising his wife Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor live on national TV. This is gainst the controversy created because she used the Malaysian Government VIP jet to her early November trip to Qatar, Prime Minister Najib’s move was seen as nothing but highly inappropriate and distasteful.
If Prime Minister Najib were to carry on as is and ‘business as usual’, 2014 would promise for another lousy year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE
*Updated New Year 2014, 0200hrs