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Withoutabox Founders Form New Model Digital Film Studio Critical Mass

Photo of Jacob Combs By Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood June 20, 2014 at 12:35PM

Withoutabox co-founders David Straus, Joe Neulight and Fred Kramer are launching a new Los Angeles-based film studio, Critical Mass Studios (CMS), which they're billing as "the first vertically integrated, next-gen studio."
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David Straus Critical Mass
David Straus Critical Mass

Withoutabox was launched in 2000 as a way for independent filmmakers to self-distribute their films.  In collaboration with the International Film Festival Submission system, the site let filmmakers submit their films to festivals all over the world, including Sundance, Cannes, the Toronto International Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival.  In 2008, IMDb--which is owned by Amazon--acquired Withoutabox.

Now, Withoutabox co-founders David Straus, Joe Neulight and Fred Kramer are launching Los Angeles-based Critical Mass Studios (CMS), which they're billing as "the first vertically integrated, next-gen studio."  Their first significant acquisition is RightsLineSoftware Inc., which tracks more than 65,000 contracts across the entertainment industry and is used by studios and publishers such as NBCUniversal, Snagfilms, MGM and Samuel French.  According to a press release announcing the formation of CMS, RightsLine is the only platform through which real-time rights availabilities and expiries can be calculated.

"Critical Mass Studios is building a new ecosystem around the frictionless management of rights," stated CEO Straus. "Content is being distributed globally on every imaginable platform.  Owners must not only have visibility throughout their entire library, but also be able to track and deliver instantly on all kinds of new deals. Those who don't institute a forward-looking system to monetize and track effectively in the new world of distribution will leave tremendous amounts of money on the table."

"RightsLine software sits at the core of the Critical Mass Studios mission," Rob Delf, the president of CMS and current CEO of RightsLine, said in a statement.  "We're going to be announcing some very exciting deals this year.  We intend to be among the few enterprises that will emerge at the center of the value chain for rights, serving as the nexus whereby rights holders, licensors, distributors, promoters and brands will communicate and transact."

See the Rightsline's mission statement below:

This article is related to: Amazon, Web/Tech


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.