Participant Media closes its doors, declining interest in ‘grown up’ films

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After two decades, Participant Media (which has won 21 Oscars) has been forced to shutter as the ongoing turbulence in the film industry continues.

After 20 years in the business, 21 Oscars and 135 films, Participant Media is closing down. The production company behind Oscar-winning films such as Spotlight and Green Book (both of which it co-produced) has been forced to shutter, with the continually-shifting landscape of film production proving to be too uncertain for the studio.

Company founder Jeff Skoll revealed the news yesterday. Around 100 staff will lose their jobs. As well as the films mentioned above, Participant’s mission statement tp produce films with a ‘social conscience’ has seen it involved in the release of some terrific films over the last two decades, including Syriana, Judas And The Black Messiah, Dark Waters, A Most Violent Year, Lincoln, The Post and Contagion, to name just a handful.

The company’s commitment to grown-up films focused on social issues is part of what made Participant’s output so impressive. However, according to Skoll, it’s also part of the reason why the company has to fold. As part of his statement to Variety, Skoll said, “the entertainment industry has seen revolutionary changes in how content is created, distributed and consumed,” and this is the most pointed remark he makes regarding the company’s demise.

While the rise of streaming may have originally promised a greater number of platforms for companies like Participant to work with, that simply hasn’t proved to be the case. The kind of films that Participant made have sharply declined at the box office, effectively meaning that the company has lost a vital portion of each film’s exhibition life cycle.

Not only does each film the company makes now have fewer opportunities to earn money, fewer of these films are actually being made. Add to that the ongoing impact of a global pandemic and a year of strike-related disruption and the problems all begin to add up, even if the final outcome is an unsavoury one to have to reckon with.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, not least because Participant was one of the industry’s leading companies in effecting environmental change too, leading the way towards adopting a carbon neutral approach to filmmaking.

That, along with the company’s commitment to creating films with a social conscience, will make Participant’s demise a real loss, not to mention potentially veering other companies away from trying to emulate these laudable traits. Unfortunately, whichever way you look at it, there’s no good spin on this sad story.

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