Broad Green Reckoning: Hammond Brothers Refocus After Flops, Identity Crisis

Billionaire Hollywood newcomers to relaunch ambitious distributor next year — but here’s how they got here

Last Updated: August 2, 2017 @ 11:14 PM

On paper, Broad Green Pictures should work.

The three-year old production and distribution company arrived to Hollywood in 2014, privately funded by billionaire Wall Street brothers Daniel and Gabriel Hammond with promises of A-list talent, prestige films, and salvation for the endangered mid-budget movie. And backed by fortunes made managing hedge funds like SteelPath and Alerian.

On Wednesday, the company shut down its entire production department and cut 15 staffers from an office of 75.

Roughly 50 titles in development were returned home to their creators. In interviews, Gabriel, 38, took responsibility for a series of significant box office misfires like the recent Ryan Phillippe horror thriller “Wish Upon,” which cost $12 million and has earned $13 million in three weeks of wide release. At the cineplex, on the festival circuit, and even on paper, Broad Green has not worked.

“Ultimately, they hired a lot of talented people but didn’t listen to them,” one former staffer told TheWrap.

Equally charming and hubristic, the Hammonds chased pedigreed executives early on like Travis Reid, the former CEO of Loews Cineplex Entertainment, to run distribution (later replaced by another vet, Richie Fay); Ice Cube collaborator and former Relativity Media creative exec Matt Alvarez as President of Production; and the well-liked Warner Bros. publicity veteran Adam Keen.

“They had expert opinions and guidance,” the insider added, “they didn’t take it.”

Representatives for Broad Green had no comment. TheWrap reported earlier on Wednesday that a refocused version of the company,” Broad Green 2.0,” would surface next year and that they would remain operational for the duration.

You can take the boys out of Wall Street, the insider said, but the culture of the financial industry rules over the LA office in pricey Hancock Park, where they serve catered lunches daily.  A person close to the Hammonds said they’re very committed to the movie business, and are serious about rebooting.

Another individual with close knowledge of the company said the Hammonds were too quick to diversify before finding footing in their core film business. They hired a deeply entrenched mergers and acquisitions executive, Dave Saxena, as CFO and tasked him with finding complimentary media and tech businesses to add to Broad Green’s portfolio.

Broad Green had beginners luck with films like 2014’s “99 Homes,” a critical darling starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon which they nabbed for a reported $3 million out of the Toronto International Film Festival. There was also the 2015 drama “A Walk in the Woods” starring Robert Redford and Emma Thompson. An exclusive output deal with Amazon Prime followed.

The streak ended there, and misfires like “Bad Santa 2,” “The Infiltrator” and Kate Winslet’s “The Dressmaker” followed. A promising relationship with elusive director Terrence Malick led to starry ensemble dramas that underperformed, like Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling’s “Song to Song” which had a reported $3 million budget and earned around $440,000 in limited release.

To address the failures and loss of momentum, Broad Green pivoted to wider-audience fare like “Wish Upon,” a Black List script about an evil box that grants the wishes of a teenaged girl, and a collegiate dance troupe comedy called “Step Sisters.” Both were made top priority for Alvarez. “Wish Upon” tanked, though “Step Sisters” will still see release this year.

The company will be represented at TIFF this year, though the production shut down could affect their appeal to talent looking for optimal distribution.

The Brothers Hammond are hardly alone as tech-and-finance kids who attempt to sit at the Hollywood lunch table. Jeff Skoll launched Participant Media with similar heat in 2004, and has also struggled with their movie business and various add-ons like a TV network and a social justice website.

Megan Ellison, daughter of Oracle co-founder and billionaire Larry Ellison, has fared better with her six-year-old Annapurna Pictures, though that venture has seen notable turnover and is about to start distributing its own films.

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