In the 20 years of its existence, Shout! Factory has expanded from home entertainment releases into music and theatrical distribution, working with filmmakers as diverse as John Carpenter, Mel Brooks, Roger Corman and Shekhar Kapur. Now, in recognition of its growing mandate, the company is changing its name to Shout! Studios.
The switch marks a two-decade transformation that occurred in a counterintuitively subdued fashion given the company’s emphatic moniker, but perfectly reflects its pedigreed but unassuming origins.
“It was impossible to come up with a name,” says Shout! CEO Garson Foos, who formed the company with his older brother Richard and Bob Emmer, fellow Rhino Records alums. “We wanted something active, and Shout! hearkened back to our music roots with the Isley Brothers song.”
Over the years, Shout! has become a standard bearer — indeed, a factory — for high-quality, bonus-material-rich home video releases, offering filmmakers not only a format that enshrines their work, but one that lets them discuss and explore it with collectors. “I always anticipated there would be generations to come that would discover my work in their own unique ways, through various mediums,” says Carpenter, director of “Halloween” franchise films and “The Fog,” among others available on disc from the distributor. “Shout! is consistent in its focus on delivering quality, timeless content to fans — it’s a natural fit.”
That curatorial instinct, displayed on editions of everything from cult TV shows like “The Electric Company” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000” to expansive catalog releases of filmmakers including Carpenter, Corman and Joe Dante, was carried over from the trio’s work at Rhino.
“When Shout! began, it brought a mentality and a spirit of super-serving fans by repackaging content and in a very creative, clever, fan-engaging kind of way that delivered extras, remastering, all stuff that Rhino and Criterion, maybe Criterion on the highbrow side, and Rhino on the less-highbrow side, invented,” says Jordan Fields, senior VP of acquisitions and originals.
Recognizing that library TV and film would be a good business source, Foos and his partners targeted content that wasn’t yet released that they could get their hands on for a reasonable price. “We were always good at playing in the niches and getting into the stuff that was a little under the radar,” Foos says.
Mel Brooks says that the box sets he produced with them, “An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy” and “The 2000 Year Old Man: The Complete History,” epitomize the company’s astuteness in identifying uncovered gems and then polishing them for a hungry audience. “Shout! Factory worked with me to create a unique collection of rarities from my long career that no other distributor would have ever done,” Brooks says. “I’ll forever be grateful for their enthusiasm for my work, and willingness to think outside the box on what a DVD collection could be.”
But it was an early triumph with “Freaks and Geeks” that would codify the company’s approach; for Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s beloved series, the trio leveraged music industry relationships cultivated in their Rhino days to clear a reported million dollars in song licensing rights. It became not just a huge commercial success, but its quality became a company signature.
“We have the ability to identify content that can become a cult classic in a way that’s very unique,” says Julie Dansker, senior VP of streaming, licensing and content strategy.
Shout! also prides itself on a business practice that may be unsexy but has proven vital in preserving their relationships: transparency. “This is less fun stuff to talk about, but we are really on top of paying people accurately and on time,” Foos says. “We’ve all heard about studio accounting, but we always had very straightforward deals — we knew if we weren’t doing right by people in that way, that we weren’t going to have a good reputation and be able to get deals down the road.”
Melissa Boag has been with Shout! almost as long as it’s existed — “I joined six months short of the beginning,” she calculates — and moved around from one department to another before landing her current role as exec VP of kids and family entertainment. “In the old days, there weren’t very many of us, so we just did a little bit of everything.” This jack-of-all-trades approach not only gave staff members a knowledge of different jobs within the organization but helped them cultivate relationships outside it that led to lasting, even pivotal business partnerships.
One of its biggest under her purview has been with multinational toy and entertainment company Hasbro, which owns the rights to “Transformers,” “G.I. Joe” and “My Little Pony.” Shout! was the first company to successfully negotiate distribution rights for home entertainment versions of the 1980s animated series that made those toy lines household names. In 2017, Boag secured a deal with GKIDS, distributor of animated films by international studios like Studio Ghibli, after first appearing on an industry panel with its company’s president, David Jesteadt.
“I was just a big fan of their films, and I was excited to sit next to him and talk about whatever the subject matter was,” she says. “I just kept in touch with him — it probably naivete that I just kept saying, ‘We’re often bidding for the same things. We’ve got to be able to work together.’”
Boag has subsequently signed long-term contracts with Portland, Ore.-based animation studio Laika (“Coraline,” “The Boxtrolls”), and just closed a deal to distribute the catalog of U.K.’s Aardman Animations, including “Wallace & Gromit” and “Shaun the Sheep.”
Even as commercial appetites fluctuated for physical media, the company grew incrementally — a pace that suited leadership. “Our acquisitions expanded when we realized we needed more than just physical rights,” says Fields. “Studios at the time, and even to a certain extent now, were loath to part with digital rights. So acquiring new films was the way to broaden our distribution muscle.”
Most recently, it picked up North American theatrical rights to Kapur’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?,” a Studiocanal and Working Title romcom starring Lily James.
Foos says the company currently generates more than twice the amount of revenue they had anticipated from physical media, a declining sector in the streaming era. “It’s less and less of our business all the time, as you would expect, but this year, 30 to 35% of our business will be physical and the rest various aspects of the non-physical revenue streams.”
Shout! has developing lucrative, free ad-supported streaming television (FAST ) channels including Shout! TV, and for dedicated shows like “Mystery Science Theater” and the Johnny Carson and Carol Burnett shows. “I don’t know that we were super smart and saw this coming, it was more like we recognized that there was an opportunity, and we took advantage of it because we could,” says Gene Pao, exec VP of strategy and digital. “We had programming that was compelling, and Pluto, Tubi, Roku and Amazon were trying to get high-quality, recognizable content, really cheap. And unlike a lot of people who were hesitant to jump in there, we said, ‘Why not?’
“We didn’t have that much to lose. We had plenty to gain,” Pao adds. “It also helped us a lot by being first in there, because we have better relationships with all these platforms than probably anyone else out there.”
In 2017, the company launched Shout! Studios, a theatrical and video-on-demand production arm that now gives the overall company its name. Its first project was a reboot of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” which it crowdfunded with series creator Joel Hodgson to produce three seasons and 33 episodes so far. Shrewdly, the company also began leveraging its vast libraries for viable intellectual properties, starting with the catalog of Corman, an iconic B-movie producer and director who gave dozens of filmmaking legends including Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson and Ron Howard their first industry jobs. “We’ve got around 300 films that touch a bunch of different genres,” says Fields.
“People who grew up on these Corman films and have a real emotional attachment to them, so it’s a tribute to the original work — and if they can bring something new to it that’s even more relevant today, I think that’s a great thing.”
The Cormans approve: “Their entrepreneurial spirit combined with their enthusiasm and respect for our work make them invaluable partners, working to revitalize our films by partnering with exciting creators, many of whom grew up watching our films, on potential feature and episodic remakes,” Roger Corman and Julie Corman say in a joint statement.
Shout! Studios remade “Slumber Party Massacre” and a forthcoming series adaptation of “Sorority House Massacre” is being developed by Norman Reedus’ Bigbaldhead production banner. Dansker says Potsy Ponciroli’s “Old Henry,” an original Western that premiered in 2021 at the Venice Intl. Film Festival, speaks to “the DNA and the soul of the company.”
A diverse slate of upcoming projects includes “Showdown at the Grand,” starring Terrence Howard and Dolph Lundgren, and comedic thriller “The Kill Room” starring Uma Thurman, Joe Manganiello and Samuel L. Jackson.
“Just like any evolving organism, you change to survive in an ever-competitive environment,” Fields says. “And that’s what we’ve done, either through bringing experts in to help strengthen our muscle and our skillsets, or by partnering with companies to hold our hands until we can learn to do it ourselves.”
He adds: “Shout! has responded in real time to market changes, to the competitive environment, and yet retained an absolute kind of consistent message to the fans, which is, ‘We know what you love.’ We love it, too, and we’re going to give you the best version of it out there.”
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