It was announced today that Focus Features, Universal's art-house division, will now be handling international distribution. This is a big deal for Focus, as they have become very successful with their releases in the United States in the past year. Films such as Brokeback Mountain and The Constant Gardener, both of which won an Oscar or three this year, have also done well in foreign markets, but Focus did not handle their distribution outside of the U.S. Instead, the rights to each release were sold to different companies in different markets. Now, however, Focus will be able to manage its films easily under one roof.
The drawback for audiences here is that Focus may be going broader with its films in order for them to play better overseas. The six films first added to Focus Features International, as the new expansion is called, are the Steve Carrell comedy Dan in Real Life; Michel Gondry's next film Be Kind, Rewind; Ben Garant's Balls of Fury; David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises; the Michael Bay-produced remake of The Hitcher; and Sean Penn's next feature, Into the Wild. None of these sound too horrible, but the crop does seem a bit more mainstream Hollywood than art-house. I doubt any will be Oscar contenders, anyway.