Focus Features

Last updated

Focus Features LLC
Type Division
Industry Film
Predecessors Good Machine
USA Films
Universal Focus
Founded2002; 20 years ago
Founder James Schamus
David Linde
Key people
Peter Kujawski (Chairman)
Jason Cassidy (Vice Chairman)
Products Motion pictures
Owner NBCUniversal
Parent Universal Pictures
Website Official website

Focus Features LLC is an American film production and distribution company, owned by Comcast as part of Universal Pictures, a division of its wholly owned subsidiary NBCUniversal. Focus Features distributes independent and foreign films in the United States and internationally.


In November 2018, The Hollywood Reporter named Focus Features Distributor of the Year for its success behind the year's breakout documentary film Won't You Be My Neighbor? and Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman . [1] The studio's most successful film to date is Downton Abbey , which garnered $194.3 million at the worldwide box office. [2]


Focus Features was formed in 2002 by James Schamus [3] and David Linde [3] and formed from the divisional merger of USA Films, Universal Focus and Good Machine, as well as the several assets of the Vivendi-affiliated film studio StudioCanal. [4] USA Films was created by Barry Diller in 1999 when he purchased October Films and Gramercy Pictures from Seagram and merged the two units together. [5] [6] Universal Focus is the specialty film arm of Universal Pictures that was created in 1999 as Universal Classics, which was led by Paul Hardart and Claudia Gray, to replace the October Films label in order to get a group of titles to be distributed by USA Films, focused on the marketing of niche-based acquisitions by Universal Pictures International, Working Title, WT2 Productions, Revolution Films and DNA Films, and eventually rebranded into Universal Focus by 2000. [7] [8]

In March 2004, Focus Features revived Rogue Pictures as a genre label, which was once used by October Films in the late 1990s. Rogue Pictures would be led by the same team who led the standard Focus management. [9]

On October 2, 2013, James Schamus was fired from his position as CEO of Focus, with the New York offices being shut down in the process. He was succeeded by Peter Schlessel, whose company FilmDistrict would be merged into Focus and folded into the trade name High Top Releasing. This became effective in January 2014, and several titles developed under FilmDistrict would be released under Focus. [10] Under Schlessel, the company began to acquire films with a wider commercial appeal, much like his previous company. [11] [12] In May 2015, Gramercy Pictures was revived by Focus as a genre label, that was on action, sci-fi, and horror films. [13]

In February 2016, Focus merged with Universal Pictures International as part of a new strategy to "align the acquisition and production of specialty films in the global market". [14] [15] [16] Following this, along with several disappointing box office returns, Schlessel was let go from the company and replaced with Peter Kujawski. [17]

In April 2017, Vine Alternative Investments re-acquired the pre-2008 Rogue film library from Focus Features. [18]

Focus World

In August 2011, Focus Features launched Focus World, a label focusing on the video on demand market with initial plans to distribute 15 films per year, with one film being released per month. [19]



United Kingdom

United States


As a distributor, Focus' most successful release in North America to date is the 2019 film Downton Abbey , which earned $84.5 million during its first weekend at the box office and surpassing Brokeback Mountain , which earned $83 million at the North American box office. [20] However, this is not counting the domestic total of Traffic , which earned $124.1 million under the USA Films banner. The animated film Coraline (which Focus did not produce, but did distribute) was also highly profitable for the company. Although suffering its share of unsuccessful releases, Focus has been consistently profitable, and its international sales arm (unusual among studio specialty film divisions) allows it to receive the foreign as well as domestic revenues from its releases. [21] Its DVD and movie rights revenues are boosted by cult classics including Wet Hot American Summer .


See also

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  1. "How Focus Features Rediscovered Its Knack for Making Award-Winning Films". The Hollywood Reporter .
  2. "'Downton Abbey' Becomes Focus Features' Highest-Grossing Pic At Domestic B.O. With $84M+, Unseating 'Brokeback Mountain'". Deadline.
  3. 1 2 Hermmans, Grant (March 11, 2022). "'Focus Features Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary With This Wonderful Reel (& Logo)'". ScreenRant.
  4. Lyons, Charles; Bing, Jonathan (February 25, 2002). "The new look at U". Variety. Retrieved January 2, 2022.
  5. "Diller gets back into movies". The Telegraph-Herald. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  6. "Universal Adds Division for Specialty Films". Los Angeles Times. September 28, 1999. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  7. Lyons, Charles (September 28, 1999). "Duo tapped to run U inhouse niche unit". Variety. Retrieved January 2, 2022.
  8. "Survival of the leanest". Variety. July 25, 2001. Retrieved January 2, 2022.
  9. Rooney, David (March 25, 2004). "Focus widens lens with Rogue". Variety. Retrieved January 2, 2022.
  10. Stewart, Andrew (October 2, 2013). "Revamped Focus Features Led by Peter Schlessel Relocating to L.A." Variety. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  11. McNary, Dave (October 2, 2013). "With FilmDistrict's DNA, Will Focus Get a Commercial Makeover?". Variety. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  12. Bart, Peter (May 1, 2014). "As Focus Moves Into More Commercial Territory, Indie Films Need a New Champion". Variety. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  13. "Focus Revives Gramercy Pictures Label For Genre Films". Deadline Hollywood . May 20, 2015. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  15. "Focus Features Shake-Up: Peter Schlessel Out". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  16. "Focus Features Shake-Up: What's Behind Peter Schlessel's Abrupt Exit". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  17. Lang, Brett (February 4, 2016). "Why Focus Features is Again Getting a Drastic Reboot" . Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  18. Hipes, Patrick (April 27, 2017). "New Village Roadshow Co-Owner Vine Acquires Manchester Film Library".
  19. "Focus Features Launches VOD Premiere Label Focus World". . August 23, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  20. "'Downton Abbey' Becomes Focus Features' Highest-Grossing Pic At Domestic B.O. With $84M+, Unseating 'Brokeback Mountain'". Deadline. October 17, 2019.
  21. Claudia Eller, "Positive cash flow through hits and misses makes Focus Features an attractive asset", Los Angeles Times , May 25, 2010.