Matt Stone and Trey Parker – Hollywood wunderkinds, creators of South Park and famous for turning up at the Oscars in drag and on acid – have announced they are to start a film production studio. Said to be inspired by the production work of Lucasfilm and Dreamworks, the new venture, Important Studios, will allow the pair to have more control over the creative, production and distribution process.
“Having worked with several different studios over the years, we came to realise that our favourite people in the world are ourselves,” explain Parker and Stone in a press release that perfectly showcases their brand of humour. “We hope to work with ourselves for a long time and are excited to now work with ourselves in a much greater capacity.”
It is also believed that the new studio will be responsible for transporting their Broadway smash, The Book of Mormon, to the big screen. The Tony award-winning musical is a lucrative venture, having grossed more than $200m (£124m) (it arrives in London next month) and a film version is expected to be a similar hit with audiences.
The pair (who also put out the satirical feature Team America: World Police) raised money from interested investors (including $60million from Joseph Ravitch of the Raine Group, a boutique merchant bank that focuses on entertainment), and the new company’s estimated value already sits at $300million thanks to revenue raised by South Park, which is currently in its 16th season.
It’s not unusual for well-known film figures to set up their own production companies (Brad Pitt has Plan B Entertainment, there’s Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films, and Will Smith started Overbrook Entertainment) but these ventures are more often than not merely used to produce movies the actor can star in - with an increased revenue incentive. But Stone and Parker’s Important Studios will go one step further and have the ability and money to green-light television, film and theatre projects, making them powerful players in Hollywood. Few others have such a set-up.
The deal also marks a shift of power. It allows Stone and Parker to have a more direct relationship with their fans (of which there is quite a specific type) and will mean the pair can bypass a lot of the old Hollywood machinery such as pitching projects, and answering to a studio. “Ten years ago, you needed that studio machinery to start cranking its marketing muscle,” said Stone. “Now we could market a movie-size project. We bring a lot of heft.”
For a pair who are used to (and have always fought against) censorship, that’s a lot of freedom. Expect them to run with it.