Relativity Media Files for Bankruptcy

The majority of last week's film news was of such little consequence that it's barely worth repeating in detail (and can thus be found below, aggregated in The Weekly Regurgitation), but at least one story bears mentioning. Relativity Media, the third largest mini-major studio after Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company in terms of U.S. market share, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday. If the name doesn't seem familiar, you may recognise Relativity as the distributor of such mid-budget, star-driven, multiplex friendly films as Immortals (2011), Mirror Mirror (2012), and Limitless (2011), as well as the co-producers the likes of 21 Jump Street (2012), Fast & Furious 6 (2013), The Social Network (2010) with various other companies.

Relativity's bankruptcy follows months of speculation surrounding the company's financial fortitude - or lack thereof - which climaxed on Wednesday as seventy-five employees were laid off and bankruptcy was deemed inevitable. This year, the company has had to contend with lawsuits,terrible box-office returns, and a failure to find new investors to cover debts that surpassed $300 million. Therefore, Relativity has at various points postponed their more substantial releases this year - horror film Before I Wake, the Halle Berry thriller Kidnap, the Sundance comedy The Bronze, and the Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig starring heist comedy Masterminds - because they lacked sufficient funds to follow through with distribution. To put it succinctly, it's been a clusterfuck of a year for Relativity, and as a result they could possibly go the way of the similarly sized studio FilmDistrict, which folded last year despite finding success in the likes of Insidious (2011) and Looper (2012).

Which is not to suggest that Relativity can't survive this bankruptcy, there's every chance they could. Nor is this a harbinger of doom for the other, more recently established mid-budget studios such as Annapurna Pictures, A24 Films, and Open Road Films. This is really just a reminder that, if you're bereft of the majors' conglomerate-derived capital, effectively catering to the multiplexes (or just not concentrating on limited releases) is really fucking difficult. For one, all those aforementioned studios - not to mention major-backed studios such as Fox Searchlight who specialise in the same kind of modest, star-driven, adult skewing films as Relativity - are distributing the same kinds of films and saturating a market that rarely yields box-office success. Moreover, in their eleven year history, only nine of Relativity's distributed films made over $50 million worldwide - they're desperately wanting for hit movies, and that's partially because they don't have the marketing budget to compete with larger studios. It's also because, honestly, most of their films weren't great. But that's beside the point here, because it would be a damn shame to see Relativity fold, because A) it sucks to see people losing their jobs; and B) we need studios who can get these modest films - not quite indie, not quite blockbuster - out there to sustain a healthy film culture.

'Rowdy' Roddy Piper Dies at 61

On Friday the news broke that Roderick Toombs - better known as professional wrestler 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper - died of a cardiac arrest as he slept on Thursday night. Often described as one of wrestling's most memorable heels (bad guys), Toombs was a consummate showman who by all accounts played a huge part in the WWF's invigoration as it gained mass popularity in the eighties - something the company acknowledged when they inducted him into the WWE Hall of Fame the same year their poster-boy Hulk Hogan. And even when he returned to the WWE in the mid-aughts (when I was watching wrestling), his boundless charisma guaranteed that his appearances would be among the highlights of each show, even though he was in his fifties and often restricted to his enormously entertaining interview segment Piper's Pit.

As well as wrestling, Toombs also appeared in countless films, although his acting career peaked early in 1988, when he starred in John Carpenter's classic They Live and the cult film Hell Comes to Frogtown - the latter of which I wrote about a couple of years ago here (be gentle, it was one of the first pieces I wrote for The 405). The former film is what he will be best remembered for outside the ring, as he not only featured in one of cinema's greatest fight scenes with Keith David - a six-minute throw down that is at once gruelling and hilarious in its overlong absurdity - but improvised the immortal line: "I've come to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum." Seriously, if you haven't seen They Live, you should seek it out - it's fucking outstanding. And though he never reached those heights in film again, he continued to give people joy in the wrestling ring, all the while beating cancer in the late-aughts. His loss is a sad one, and our thoughts are with his friends and family.

The Weekly Regurgitation:

- Tommy Lee Jones will appear in the fifth Bourne film, as will Alicia Vikander and Julia Stiles. Matt Damon is returning as Jason Bourne after he passed on the dismal Bourne Legacy (2012), and Paul Greengrass is also returning to write and direct. (Variety)

- The talents of Rachel McAdams are going to be wasted in yet another film (fuck you, Southpaw [2015]), as she has confirmed talks to star in the upcoming Marvel film Doctor Strange (2016). (LA Times)

- Daniel Radcliffe will star as an FBI agent in Daniel Ragussis' debut feature Imperium, a film based on the experiences of its co-writer Michael German as an agent going undercover in American neo-Nazi groups. (Deadline)

- This year's Sundance darling The Witch (2015) won't be theatrically released until next year, but its director Robert Eggers is already on board to write and direct his next film, a remake/adaptation of F.W. Murnau's classic horror Nosferatu (1922). (Deadline)

- Paramount is developing an adaptation of Paul Pope's acclaimed comic Battling Boy, a series about twelve year-old demi-god whose powers change depending on the t-shirt he's wearing, or something. Patrick Osborne will direct, he's best known as the director of Disney's animated, Academy Award winning short film Feast (2014) - the one about the dog that played before Big Hero 6 (2014). (The Tracking Board)

- David Gordon Green's Boston Marathon bombing film Stronger - one of three currently in development - is closing in on Jake Gyllenhaal as its lead. (Variety)

- New Line announced their remake of blaxploitation classic Shaft (1971) back in February, and this week the film found writers in Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and The Goldbergs writer Alex Barnow. The film will be an action comedy rather than a thriller (I've not seen Shaft, but this decision has pissed some people off), so it makes sense that New Line has hired two sitcom writers. (The Hollywood Reporter)

- Apparently the mobile video-game series Five Nights at Freddy's is incredibly popular (Am I so out of touch? No, it's the children who are wrong). In fact, it's so popular that it's being adapted for cinema by Warner Bros and Gil Kenan, the director of Poltergeist (2015). (Deadline)

- The documentary Michael Moore has been secretly working on these past few years was finally unveiled this week, it's called Where to Invade Next and will premiere this year at the Toronto International Film Festival. (The Hollywood Reporter)