New Yorker Films closes its doors

New Yorker FilmsIt's lights out for New Yorker Films, the boutique distributor that brought international films and "difficult" cinema to the U.S. for over 40 years.

From the New York Times:

One of the most influential distributors of foreign and independent films, New Yorker has amassed a library of more than 400 titles, including Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” and Claude Lanzmann’s epic Holocaust documentary “Shoah,” said Dan Talbot, who founded the company in 1965.

Mr. Talbot, 82, said in a telephone interview that the company was going out of business because its library was being sold. It had been pledged as collateral on a loan taken out by its former owner, Madstone Films, which bought New Yorker Films in 2002.

Lesson: Even if you sell the rights to your film to someone you trust, those rights can then be resold, traded, used as collateral, and foreclosed upon just like any other property. Think twice before you sign those rights away for more than a few years.

From the IndieWIRE article:

These are ‘difficult’ films, not popular mass-market films,’’ Dan Talbot told the New York Times in the 1987 profile. ‘‘They’re meant for a small, elite audience. And nothing has changed in 20 years; it’s still a very tiny, elite audience. There were other distributors who were bringing in these films, but I would say that our role was to introduce some of the more risky films that on the surface did not seem to have a wide audience. Distribution of that kind is a very financially masochistic business."

Lesson: There are distributors out there who love movies and who will help you get your movie in front of the audiences who want to see it. That doesn't mean that anyone will be getting rich in the process.

Mr. Talbot said he was crushed by the end of the company. “I nurtured this,” he said. “These films are like babies.”

Lesson: Distributors are people too.

Read the indieWIRE article and the NY Times article.

(Via John Merriman.)