Participant, socially conscious film maker, resigns | Trending Viral hub

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For 20 years, Participant Media has been Hollywood’s leading creator of activist entertainment, backing socially conscious films such as “An Inconvenient Truth,” a cri de coeur about climate change, and “Wonder,” about a child with birth defects. . His films have won 21 Academy Awards.

But the company never managed to do good and make money at the same time, at least not consistently. Matt Damon’s fracking drama (“Promised Land,” a 2012 Participant effort) has a hard time competing with “Avengers: Infinity War” in 3-D.

On Tuesday, the company’s founder and financial lifeline, eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll, pulled the plug on the company, a decision based at least in part on the stunting the entertainment business. Participant relies on studios and streaming services to distribute its content, and those partners are cutting – especially in the “niche” movies and shows that Participant specializes in, as they face continued weakness at the box office, higher labor costs and increased profit pressure of Wall Street.

Streaming services like Disney+ and Netflix have started selling ads, and advertisers prefer apolitical content for all audiences. Documentaries and dramas about eating broccoli that explore underrepresented communities (both contestant sweet spots) are harder to sell than ever.

“The entertainment industry has seen revolutionary changes in the way content is created, distributed and consumed,” Skoll said in an email to Participant employees that was seen by The New York Times. A spokesman said Skoll was not available for an interview.

The participant will immediately lay off most of its 100 employees. A skeleton crew will remain for a while to work on upcoming films such as “Out of My Mind,” about a nonverbal sixth-grader with cerebral palsy, and “BLKNWS,” about what the media leaves out or misrepresents when reporting on the blacks. culture.

Skoll has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Participant since its founding in 2004. The company, working with partners such as DreamWorks, achieved critical and commercial success with films such as “The Help” (2011), focused on racial reconciliation, and “Spotlight” (2015), about a newspaper’s investigation into child abuse.

The participant’s documentary division was second to none. “An inconvenient truth”, released in 2006, remains one of the most successful documentaries in box office history; It cost $1.5 million to make and raised $50 million. The participant also endorsed “The cove,” a searing 2009 documentary about dolphin hunters, and “RBG,” a warm 2018 portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (The contestant took a hit in 2021 when her former documentary president, Diana Weyermandied of lung cancer.)

The company often operated at a loss. When asked about profitability, participating executives pursed their lips and somewhat impatiently explained the concept of the “double bottom line,” that is, performance measured by profits (the first bottom line) or social return (the second). ).

A Participant film that loses money could still be “profitable” if the social impact was large enough, they said. “The Soloist,” starring Jamie Foxx as a homeless musical genius, cost $60 million in 2009; It raised $38 million. But it was recorded as a triumph in Participant’s books because of an accompanying action campaign that included school curriculum guides and the collection and distribution of 250,000 pairs of jeans to people living on the streets.

Over the past decade, other activism-oriented entertainment entrepreneurs have followed Participant’s lead. Ava DuVernay’s company, Array, describes its mission as “amplifying the work of Black artists, filmmakers of color, and women of all stripes.” Barack and Michelle Obama found Higher Ground Productions.

Somewhat paradoxically, the Participant himself has rarely been stronger.

David Linde, former president of Universal Pictures, has run Participant since 2015. When he arrived, the company was in crisis. Bets on films like “The Beaver,” focused on mental health, were not paying off. Linde’s predecessor had made the unwise decision to start a cable channel called Pivot and expand into digital publishing. The number of employees at the company increased to almost 300.

Mr. Linde close pivot, refined Participant’s social action campaigns and allocated funds to the development of film and television ideas. The result was a series of commercial and critical successes, including “Roma,” a period drama that brought attention to domestic workers, and “Green Book,” a film about racial issues in the form of a road trip. “Green Book” won the Oscar for best film in 2019; It cost $23 million and sold $322 million in tickets worldwide.

Linde declined to comment on the decision to close Participant.

Mr. Skoll’s involvement with Participant has diminished in recent years. He said in the note to Participant employees that he wanted to focus more on his philanthropic foundation, which he champions. social entrepreneurship. In 2021, citing wildfire smoke, she moved to Florida from California.

“I did what I could during my time there and I’m grateful.” wrote in X when he left the state. “Onward to a new chapter.”

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