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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

MarVista Entertainment

Programming Profile

Holidays are coming

07-08-2020

For international buyers looking ahead to the holiday season, LA-based MarVista Entertainment has lined up a festive sack brimming over with goodies and is showcasing them on C21’s Digital Screenings this week.

 

LA-based global independent studio MarVista Entertainment and Santa Claus have something in common: they both deliver the goods for the Christmas season.

 

Unlike Father Christmas, however, MarVista does not sneak down your chimney in the middle of the night, but instead ensures a steady stream of holiday content is fed to screens across the globe.

 

The US company sets itself apart from other sales houses by focusing on the niche world of holiday and Christmas programming. And as it gears up for this year’s Christmas season, the company has liaised with familiar and new clients to compile a slate tailored to their demands and reflect current market trends.

 

Pillemer
Hannah Pillemer,
MarVista Entertainment

MarVista exec VP and head of creative affairs Hannah Pillemer says the firm’s approach to compiling a compelling slate revolves around four types of content. “We have really built it around four universal and enduring genres, and those are date-night thrillers, kids and family, romantic comedies, and holiday films,” Pillemer says.

 

“This year, with the way the world is changing, we’re looking at holiday films that not only celebrate the magic of the season, and different seasons in some instances, but also celebrating the diversity in specific cultural experiences.

 

“What you’re going to see on our slate this year is a lot of new characters and new perspectives, while still sticking close to those traditional elements that we all love and want to see, particularly at Christmas time. It just feels like a slightly new perspective.”

 

Pillemer says this new perspective has come about as she and her team have been working closely with clients to ensure a steady content pipeline amid the disruption caused by the pandemic.

 

Christmas Unwrapped
Christmas Unwrapped

“It has been a shift for sure. We’ve moved away from our independently minded content to more platform-agnostic and more specifically into ‘how do we serve our buyers?’ How do we really give them exactly what they need and really make sure we’re doubling down on that in the short term? Because everyone’s fear is, ‘Is the content going to dry up? How are we going to keep people satisfied?’”

 

As such, MarVista has not been resting on its laurels – and despite the team operating within a niche, Pillemer has been looking to innovate.

 

“We’ve always been at the forefront of taking chances in the holiday space; we are always looking for unique characters with new stories to tell. It’s definitely a challenge right now because we have a very limited window in order to get this content made and delivered so that there’s enough time for our partners to be able to promote the material and exploit it fully.

 

Secrets in the Woods
Secrets in the Woods

“What we’re seeing this year is a call to action to push the envelope and to not get complacent; to find new traditions that we can show, new perspectives and points of view.”

 

In this vein, Pillemer says MarVista has continued to increase diversity and representation in its content, offering an LGBT Christmas movie that the company is currently producing as an example.

 

“It’s really about diversity across all different types of characters,” she says. “Everyone celebrates the Winter Holidays, so our goal is really to say it’s not about making the stories edgier or more different, it’s just about showing that we all share a universal experience.”

 

Secrets in the Snow
Secrets in the Snow

Meanwhile, the company is working to ensure its slate includes as many original productions across its varied genres. MarVista has continued its focus on thrillers, which have a strong presence on its slate.

 

“Within the date-night thriller space, there’s a real appetite, particularly during this pandemic period when we’re all trapped inside, to do these deep dives into true crime and mystery,” Pillemer says. “Everyone just wants to immerse themselves in escapist stories, and we’re delivering on this with our thrillers.

 

“We’re using true crime stories to inspire new takes on our thrillers, providing a little more suspense and leaning into the mystery. We’re seeing that audiences are hungry for the familiar, but with a little kicker. They want something that they know but, at the same time, they still want to be challenged and surprised.”

 

Secrets in the Water
Secrets in the Water

Ticking both the original content and thriller boxes for MarVista is its Secrets franchise, comprised of three films: Secrets in the Woods, Secrets in the Snow and Secrets in the Water.

 

“We built this franchise by figuring out ways that we can tell these suspenseful stories with a lot of twists and turns set in interesting and unique locations,” Pillemer explains. “They all delve into mysterious circumstances impacting the leading lady, and they’re all set in picturesque locations that help sell the visual scope of the movie.”

 

As for kids and family programming, Pillemer says that, like many other players in the distribution game, she has noted a demand for co-family viewing content as a result of the pandemic.

 

The Christmas Ball
The Christmas Ball

“Families are inside now and they’re looking for something to watch on a Saturday or Sunday evening. Being able to turn on the TV and have a romantic movie that’s going to make you feel good and escape for a little bit, that’s really what people are looking for right now,” the exec notes.

 

As traditional broadcasters and major streaming platforms continue to trade blows in the fight for eyeballs, Pillemer says MarVista’s slate can serve both sides, believing the industry’s needs have become increasingly universal.

 

“We’re fairly equally balanced,” she says. “Now we’re finding that if you have a compelling story and you can really tell it in a strong way in terms of your production value and your casting, it’s going to do really well, regardless of where it actually ends up.

 

Killer Cheerleader
Killer Cheerleader

“There was a point when there were our buyers had so many different targets and everyone had their own lens of what they specifically wanted when it came to holiday, kids and family, or thriller content. Now it seems the needs are becoming more universal, with a compelling, interesting thriller with a strong female character that has twists and turns is in demand.

 

With female-skewing and often female-led content dominating MarVista’s slate, Pillemer says the company’s target demographic is clear. But she adds that the studio is making inroads into other demos.

 

“We’re definitely focused on our ladies and our content is very much female-driven. However, as the streaming platforms are beginning to have more and more of these date-night thrillers, we are going to see the audience level out even further, with more men coming and watching as the storytelling gets a little bit more sophisticated and a little less predictable.”

 

Deadly Rideshare
Deadly Rideshare

Pillemer says the focus on a female demo has helped MarVista’s content travel successfully. And despite being a US-based company, Marvista’s programming performs quite well in European markets.

 

“Europe is very strong for our content. We have great partners in the UK, France, Italy and Spain among others, and those markets remain very focused on their strong female base audience. We continue to super serve that demo while pushing the envelope as much as we can, especially with these new platforms,” Pillemer notes.

 

Of the MarVista titles on offer, Pillemer has a soft spot for Midnight at the Magnolia, which she says has “all those trappings of being a classic.”

 

Midnight at the Magnolia
Midnight at the Magnolia

She continues: “We decided we really wanted to make a New Year’s movie. We wanted to take a little bit of a risk, even though that window to air it is very tiny. The movie begins on Christmas Day and carries us through to New Year’s Eve, following two family friends from childhood.”

 

“They host a radio talkshow with dating advice and, of course, they’re a mess in their personal dating lives. They decide to plan this big event to save their fathers’ jazz club and they realise that they’ve been in love with each other the whole time. It’s got all the magic of the holiday season with a more contemporary twist.”

 

The season to be jolly is fast approaching, and MarVista is stocked and ready to ensure screens across the globe are fed with content to fit the bill.



More programming profiles

  • 26-07-2021

    LA-based MarVista Entertainment is feeding the growing market for TV movies with a new slate that puts women centre-stage and has inclusivity at its core.

     

    As more and more players enter the TV market and demand for content skyrockets, LA-based content studio MarVista Entertainment is finding its competitive edge in “topical, inclusive, high-quality and efficient” feature films, according to exec VP of creative affairs Hannah Pillemer.

     

    “The market is in a period of major transformation, shifting and evolving even as we speak. Every day, you read the trades and there’s a new merger, new shift, new player moving in or moving out,” Pillemer says.

     

    “With more players entering the streaming space and linear networks still very much in the game, what we’ve been seeing is that buyers are really competing to provide a deep library of content for their viewers without necessarily having to spend millions of dollars acquiring huge theatrical movies, big studio projects or expensive series. So that’s where we find at MarVista, we can really compete and lead,” she adds, noting that the company is “working with almost every new streamer in the space,” including Disney+, Tubi, Peacock, HBO Max and Discovery+ and continues to work with top existing players including Netflix.
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