Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck The 10 Best Films Of 2003 The 10 Best Films Of 2003 The 10 Best Films Of 2002 The 10 Best Films Of 2002 Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

With James Schamus Out, What Does The Future Hold For Focus Features?

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist October 2, 2013 at 3:52PM

Since 2001, James Schamus has been the very public and very successful CEO of Focus Features, the arthouse arm of Universal Pictures. Under his tenure, filmmakers like Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen, George Clooney, Cary Fukunaga, Rian Johnson, David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski and more have all seen their movies released by Focus, who have carved out a niche for themselves as an indie willing to take on smart, adult fare and have often proven an ability to make them financially successful. The brand, more often than not, is associated with quality. But a changing of the guard is happening that could see a change in how they operate.
9
Focus Features

Since 2001, James Schamus has been the very public and very successful CEO of Focus Features, the arthouse arm of Universal Pictures. Under his tenure, filmmakers like Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen, George Clooney, Cary Fukunaga, Rian Johnson, David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski and more have all seen their movies released by Focus, who have carved out a niche for themselves as an indie willing to take on smart, adult fare and have often proven an ability to make them financially successful. The brand, more often than not, is associated with quality. But a changing of the guard is happening that could see a change in how they operate.

Today, it was announced that as of January 14, 2014, Peter SchlesselFilmDistrict founder and CEO, will head up Focus Features. But perhaps most crucially, FilmDistrict is essentially being absorbed by Focus, with all releases by the studio to fall under the Focus banner. And far from being just a change in leadership, Focus is physically moving too, with its longtime offices in New York City and a staff of over 100, being relocated to Los Angeles. So what's the game plan?

According to the official press release: "Schlessel will be seeking to broaden the types of films that Focus distributes and increase the number of films the division releases to as many as ten films per year.  The slate will be populated by a combination of projects developed and produced internally at Focus, as well as films acquired during various stages of development and production." Or to borrow a couple more word from the release: "expand and diversify."

So what does this really mean? Should we "Kiss the old Focus good-bye," as Thompson On Hollywood suggets? Well, we wouldn't go that far. Focus has long been Universal's home for mid-budgeted, non-blockbustery adult fare, and this shift to more mainstream appealing titles isn't exactly new. One could argue films like "Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World" and "The World's End" were just those kind of things (which could've easily been released by FilmDistrict), and it's not a surprise that Universal is shifting their erotica drama "Fifty Shades Of Gray" to their specialty label.

That being said, it could mean that more potentially challenging or artier movies might have to fight a bit harder for a place at the table, and that genre fare (FilmDistrict in the past year brought efforts like "Parker," "Olympus Has Fallen" and the hugely successful "Insidious" franchise to the table) might find more of a foothold. A change at the top always means a shift in direction, but just how drastic it will be remains to be seen, though we wouldn't say the sky is falling just yet.

We live in an era where young companies like CBS Films are tackling the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis," and something as seemingly major studio no-brainer as "Foxcatcher" is a Sony Pictures Classics release. Studios are increasingly moving toward big, big blockbusters and franchises, leaving even awards season fare to their smaller partners. So this shift could just mean a bulked up Focus that handles both the artier end-of-year fare along with the kinds of middle budget/sized movies Universal used to release in the past, but just isn't part of their m.o. anymore. But we won't really know until Schlessel starts making his first moves.

Until then, do you have thoughts on this? Let us know your thoughts on Focus below.

This article is related to: James Schamus, Focus Features


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates