New Generation of Action Stars Needed, German Distributor of ‘Expendables,’ ‘John Wick’ Movies Says: ‘It’s on Us to Build Up New Stars Again’

Fred Kogel, CEO of leading German film and TV group Leonine Studios, which distributes the “Expendables” and “John Wick” movies in Germany, made the case for a new generation of action stars during the Zurich Summit over the weekend, where he was presented with Zurich Film Festival’s Game Changer Award.

He noted that many of today’s action stars are the same ones he watched on the big screen back in the 1980s, among them Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise.

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Action movie fans identified with these actors because they could believe they were doing their own stunts, he added. There was “a great deal of identification with the type of the actor, with the physicality of the actor, so you could relate to that.”

By contrast, in modern CGI-laden superhero movies, “the younger generation doesn’t even know who does what.”

“I think it’s on us to build up new stars again, with the physicality, with the looks and with the sympathetic, great-acting factor – you need that. It’s in our own hands.

“See ‘John Wick.’ ‘John Wick’ really created a completely new kind of action genre. Who would have known 10 or 12 years ago, after ‘Matrix,’ that Keanu would be able to pull it off again with his most successful franchise?”

During his Zurich talk, Kogel said he expects “huge consolidation” in the streaming sector as well as “further consolidation in the German media market,” although noted that long-term forecasts remained murky.

Fred Kogel
Fred Kogel was presented with Zurich Film Festival’s Game Changer Award.

He underscored a recent report about the future of linear free TV whose bottom line was, “Nobody can look into the future longer than six, eight or 12 months right now. So nobody has the straight answer to give.”

One thing is certain, however: “There will be constant change, that’s for sure. Will there be huge consolidation in the streamer market? In my opinion, yes. Will there be further consolidation in the German media market? Yes.

“In the end, how many huge production groups will there be? I can’t give you the answer. I think there will be less than today. Is it good to have production, licensing and distribution together? I think yes because the future business will tend to more licensing because we need cooperation, limited rights and financing for our products.

“Is there a future for independent film? Yes, I think so,” Kogel said, adding that independent companies could produce the kind of content that studios would never dare to do.

While theatrical distribution is back, it is very different than it was in the past, he added.

“I’m a big lover of theatrical releases. We are quite successful with that. Everybody warned me about getting into theatrical distribution again. I love this business so I did it anyway, and thank God, because it’s now back.”

Theaters may be back, but theatrical distribution is “back very differently than it was 10 years ago, five years ago or three years ago.

“You have to see which movies function and you have to know your value chain.”

Kogel pointed to “Expend4bles,” which Leonine released on Sept. 21 to a less than stellar box office: it garnered just €698,711 from 67,818 admissions for a fourth place opening.

“I never bet too much on theatrical here because I know I have the home end, I have the SVOD and I have the free. And we made our calculations very precisely.”

The films that do work in theaters right now are the tentpoles and four-quadrant movies, and “not necessarily superheroes anymore.” Those are the kinds of films Leonine is looking for, he said, noting that it would be a difficult future for medium products and IPs that are not very marketable.

Leonine boasts a very broad range of movie titles and recently established the A24 | Leonine Studios label with A24.

Everything Everywhere All at Once
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Kogel started the label “because, first of all, I love those guys. Sasha [Sasha Lloyd, A24’s CEO international and strategy] and the team there, they are great. And I wanted to learn how they market. Then we did ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ together. That’s not a typical Leonine film.”

While he recognized its potential, Kogel said, “I didn’t know the dynamics of the market when it comes to a film like this. And it was a huge success for us in Germany. So this was something I could learn from.”

As well as “Expendables” and “John Wick,” Leonine’s catalog includes such varied films as Florian Zeller’s “The Father” and “The Son,” and “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

“I am not an arthouse kind of distributor. I’m the huge mass success distributor. I want to have success, maybe with an ‘Everything Everywhere’ when I understand the dynamics, or maybe with ‘John Wick.’”

Leonine’s home entertainment business is totally different, focused mainly on action. Kogel added: “We know exactly how to market it physically, digitally – that’s our game and I think we’re really good at it.”

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