In a rare interview about his eight-year attempt to mount an independent movie production studio, producer Joe Roth reflected on what went wrong at Revolution Studios and why.
TheWrap spoke to Roth after obtaining a full listing of the Revolution library, which has been for sale but has not found a buyer.
“I would do everything differently,” he told TheWrap. “What we were asked to do — and agreed to do — was 6, 7 or 8 movies a year. I didn’t have a big enough company to do that. I would have been better off working on a few movies, bigger titles, than doing a piece of Sony’s slate.”
Which is what he now does. “I’m in the schizophrenic position of producing giant movies as an independent producer, but at the same time, I’m carefully watching this asset I spent eight years working on,” he said.
Revolution launched in 2000 with Roth raising having raised nearly $1 billion to make movies. Sony, Starz and Fox became co-owners in the company, with Roth owning 75 percent of Revolution, in exchange for distribution rights and $250 million in capital.
With those funds he made pricey, multi-picture deals with movie stars including Julia Roberts, Adam Sandler and Bruce Willis.
Many of the movies did not perform, and a fair number were outright bombs, including “Gigli,” “Tears of the Sun” and “Across the Universe.”
The offering for Revolution’s library states that Roth supplied 28 percent of Sony/Columbia total box office receipts since March 2001.
Sony declined to comment.
But at the same time, the entire entertainment landscape was changing: home entertainment revenue began its precipitous slide, studios began to cut their release slates and audiences were enticed by other kinds of entertainment.
Roth said: “The assignment made sense going in. Midway through it was clear the marketplace was changing. And there was no apparatus, even if I could figure it out, to change it. So I stopped it, a year before I had to.”
Roth effectively shut down the development and production side of the company at the end of 2007, and put up the library for sale.
At the time he believed the value was $600 million, he told TheWrap. Since then, he estimates its value has declined as low as $450 million, because of the drop in DVDs.
The result is that the library has not sold, and Roth has given up on the notion of selling the library until some semblance of a clear revenue stream emerges from the multiplicity of digital streaming services that have launched.
“That market is just starting,” he said. “The hope is it will take some of the sting out of the loss of DVD value.”
While producing some of the biggest movies on Hollywood’s plate — “Alice in Wonderland,” “Oz” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” — Roth is slowly paying back his debts.
He said he would pay back $50 million by 2015 — slower than he’d like because of slowed DVD sales — and pay off two other portions of his debt in the years after that.
He concluded: “Revolution didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. But it exists, it’ll pay off… And I survived it. “