On Jan. 30, Sterling Genesis International acquired TLA Entertainment Group — which includes tlamovies.com, tlavideo.com, tlagay.com, tlacult.com and tlaondemand.com. G. Sterling Zinsmeyer, chairman of Sterling Genesis International, will become chief operating officer of TLA Entertainment Group. Sterling Genesis CEO and president Derek Curl will be the new CEO and president of TLA Entertainment Group. Both are openly gay.
The sale reunites the wholesale side of the LGBT film company with the direct-to-consumer side of the business. Curl purchased TLA releasing, the film-releasing side of the business (theatrical, DVD, digital and festival distribution) for the United States and United Kingdom territories almost three years ago.
Curl, via Skype from New York City, where the holding company is based, said the reason for the purchase “was to consolidate the LGBT film market and have more power and clout dealing with iTunes, Netflix and Amazon on a global scale. We want a bigger, stronger, more recognized brand globally.”
He also said the company plans to focus “specifically on the digital proliferation of TLA titles and bringing films and the TLA brand to a global stage.”
Curl remarked that one benefit to owning TLA Entertainment was to “control the trajectory from inception and script to end consumer.” He unveiled his business plan that will “collapse the time from finishing a film to having it released. Rather than wait the three years from inception and two years from completion, we will change the distribution model so that the customer has greater and faster access.”
TLA will release its video-on-demand plans in the next six months. The goal, Curl said, “is to make a title available in hard goods and digital goods in the majority of major global markets simultaneously, so someone in the south of France can buy a DVD or watch on digital TV the same film at the same time as someone in Argentina or Oakland, Calif., can.”
The company will continue to produce films, and Curl mentioned that original productions are planned in the Philippines, Eastern Europe and South Africa, as well as in Argentina, where TLA has already produced gay films including “Sexual Tension: Volatile” and “Solo.”
Eric Moore, one of the founders at TLA Entertainment Group, is remaining with the company as chief technical strategist. Ray Murray, another original founder, will be involved with acquisitions for the TLA Releasing side of the company. Claire Kohler, also a founder of the company, has moved on to new ventures.
Murray spoke about the sale and transition in a recent phone interview.
“Without the video stores and much [theatrical] releasing, it is a more Internet- and mail-order-based company, so I wanted to try something different,” Murray said. “G. Sterling Zinsmeyer is a gay film producer and very TLA-minded. Derek bought TLA Releasing and was part of the team. It’s not being taken over, or sold to a straight company, or a national company. The people in the business are gay, so it’s a good handover.”
Murray is also pleased to continue to acquire films and make deals with filmmakers.
“My marching orders were to resurrect TLA Releasing into what it was a few years ago — sexy, fun, gay male entertainment. A specialty label, Canteen Outlaws, will be for [distributing] international films and more challenging stuff. It’s a sweet job for me and part-time. I still have something inside TLA, but I don’t have an office.”
The sale of TLA Entertainment Group allows Murray to forge ahead with his plans to open the Warehouse Cinema in Northern Liberties. The entertainment complex will include a restaurant and bar and a three-screen theater with a mix of first-run, repertory and offbeat international films. Murray explained that the theater would offer “real luxury, great sound and picture, and waitress service.” He said he was optimistic the venue would open this summer.
As for QFest, which has been tied to TLA Entertainment Group and served as a platform for premiering TLA Releasing titles, Murray is unsure of its status. Curl, however, said he is “in talks about how to celebrate the 20th anniversary of QFest.”
He said he hopes to use the festival not only as a launching pad for queer cinema overall, but also to expand QFest’s reach in the digital age.
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