Umbrella takes stock amid indie downturn

Richard Moore has departed as Umbrella Entertainment’s theatrical distribution manager as the distributor reassess its approach to theatrical acquisitions.

Umbrella’s founder Jeff Harrison tells IF, “We will still invest in theatrical films but are looking at things more carefully.”

Like other independent distributors, Umbrella has grappled with a marked downturn in the market for indie films in the past two years as many US, UK and foreign-language films have struggled to secure and to hold on to screens.

A former director of the Brisbane and Melbourne International Film Festivals, Moore spent the two past years at Umbrella working on titles including The Babadook, Backyard Ashes, When the Queen Came to Town, Words and Pictures, The Last Impresario and The Crossing.

Harrison frets that young people only go to cinemas now to see tentpoles and that quality films such as Nightcrawler,  Boyhood and Sony's Whiplash  are not resonating with mainstream audiences. 

Harrison, who founded Umbrella in 2001, says it was an amicable parting with Moore, who won't be replaced. In the next few months the company is focussing on film festival releases.

Miss Julie, an adaptation of August Strindberg’s play, directed by Liv Ullmann and starring Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton, premiered last November at the British Film Festival and he is looking for further festival opportunities.

Francois Ozon’s The New Girlfriend, a psychological thriller about a woman who learns that the husband of her late best friend is harbouring a most unusual secret, will be launched at the Alliance Française French Film Festival in March.

Umbrella’s next major theatrical release will be Trespass Against Us, UK director Adam Smith’s debut feature starring Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson, the saga of an outlaw father and son.

It will set a release date after the film’s international festival premiere later this year. The distributor is also attached to two Australian films which are awaiting confirmation of Screen Australia funding.