LONDON -- Entertainment One is well-placed to retain its position as the U.K.'s top independent distributor after a strong first half of the year, and a muscular slate for the remaining months. But, as Alex Hamilton, managing director, eOne Films U.K., tells Variety, the company has aspirations to be considered on a par with the Hollywood majors.
EOne has been the top indie in the U.K. for three of the past four years, and last year finished ahead of two studios, Sony and Paramount, with its box office totaling more than Â£100 million ($171 million) for the first time.
"12 Years a Slave," which took over $34.3 million at the U.K. box office, "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Divergent."
Upcoming pics for 2014 include Daniel Radcliffe starrer "What If," David Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars" and Jake Gyllenhaal starrer "Nightcrawler." 2015 will have a strong start with Steve Carell and Channing Tatum starrer "Foxcatcher" and Russell Crowe's helming debut "The Water Diviner."
"The intention is to be in amongst the studios, year in, year out," Hamilton said. "That's the aim: not only to be the leading independent, but in amongst the studios. And to have the strengths of both: the flexibility of an indie, but the market clout and organization of a studio."
One advantage for the distrib is its relationship with its sales arm, eOne Films Intl., headed by Harold van Lier, as well as the company's production division, headed by Xavier Marchand.
"With the enhanced sales and production arm here now we are seeing projects earlier, so we were able to come on board from a U.K. perspective on films that we are doing either as a production, like 'Eye in the Sky,' or also taking international rights, such as 'Trumbo,'" Hamilton said.
"We are just seeing some good projects earlier than we might have, because normally we might have seen those later on if they'd landed somewhere else," he said. "Not to say that we are not still keen buyers from a lot of the larger international sales agents. It's another way of embellishing what we are doing."
As well as its own productions and the third-party pick-ups, eOne has output deals with Hollywood studios, including Summit, Relativity and DreamWorks, which will deliver Steven Spielberg's "The BFG" in 2016. "That seems like a giant one for us," Hamilton said.
This pipeline of projects allows eOne to plan ahead.
"We were conscious in Cannes that we were starting to populate the 2016 slate with some great stuff -- like 'A Monster Calls' or 'Story of Your Life' -- top-tier filmmakers, top-tier projects, coming from top-tier sales agents, allowing us to start putting down the corner-stones of our slate two years down the road."
The distributor plans to release 30 to 35 films a year, although it was 43 in 2013 and 39 this year, which was partly due to eOne's acquisition of Alliance.
"We want to have a constant market-place presence. We want to be releasing movies regularly. We want to be releasing movies of different shapes and sizes," Hamilton said. "All of our partners, be it exhibitors, be it press, be it people we have ancillary deals with -- they all know they are going to get films from us on a regular basis."
He adds: "It is the portfolio approach to an extent. We are staffed appropriately so that we can handle that volume of movies. We are staffed in such a way that we can give them the TLC and the specific care that each and every movie needs. There are over 100 people in the U.K. film company alone.
"So it is not something that you would characteristically describe as an independent model historically in the U.K., because the barriers to entry have been so high; it's an expensive market. But fortunately we have managed to build a business of a certain size now that we can capitalize upon those economies of scale in terms of our media buying and the like."
EONE U.K.'S 2014 SLATE
"Earth to Echo" (July 25)
"The Rover" (Aug. 15)
"What If" (Aug. 20)
EOne Goes Toe to Toe With Hollywood Majors in U.K.
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