William Schopf quietly entered the distribution business in 2007 with Music Box Films—an outlet for the same kind of grown-up art-house pictures he’d scoped at international festivals to play at his Music Box Theater. To run the company with him, Schopf enlisted Music Box Theater programmer Brian Andreotti and New York distro veteran Ed Arentz of Palm Pictures and Empire Pictures.
Three years later, as studio art-house divisions like Miramax, Warner Independent, Picturehouse, and Paramount Vantage have shut down alongside influential independent companies like ThinkFilm, Music Box Films has steadily grown its slate to some dozen titles a year, which it now releases on DVD as well as in theaters.
Their French thriller Tell No One’s $6 million gross made it the second-biggest foreign language film of 2008. And The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has already surpassed that: Based on Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium mystery trilogy, Tattoo grossed $6.9 million in the first 11 weeks of its release, making it the second most successful art-house film of 2010 so far, after Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer.
Music Box opens part two of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire, on July 2 and part three, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, later this summer. Other Music Box titles include the French OSS 117 spy-spoof series, the German mountaineering epic North Face, and the Vincent Cassel gangster diptych Mesrine. As indie film insiders lament declining youth attendance, Music Box unabashedly targets a core audience of affluent, educated, urban baby boomers—the people most likely to have the time, money, and inclination to drop $12 on something subtitled. And it eschews expensive TV and New York Times ads in favor of more cost-effective NPR spots and filmmaker publicity appearances. It’s working.