I am very saddened by this...
Navarre Corporation announced yesterday that they will be shutting down its subsidiary BCI Eclipse Company as part of a restructuring plan "to deal with the effect of the recession," this according to Cary Deacon, Narvarre's Chief Executive Officer. This news comes just as BCI was broadening its slate to include licensed Shaw Brothers films and recently acquired Golden Harvest and Cinema City product from the Miramax vault.
BCI Eclipse, formerly known as Brentwood, has been a distributor of a broad range of budget DVDs, notably to this site for a series of karate and kung fu films licensed from Adness and Toby Russell's Rarescope label. Deacon went on to explain that the decision to scrap the underperforming unit was part of an effort to lower expenses throughout Navarre.
"BCI's operations have been unprofitable for the past two years. Although strides have been made this year to improve operating results, it has been mainly due to the strength of BCI's exclusive distribution business. Rapidly changing conditions in the licensed and budget DVD markets during this holiday sales season have prompted us to make more fundamental changes. In response, we are closing BCI's licensing unit in order to position our overall business for enhanced financial results upon the improvement of macro economic conditions."
"We continue to be very excited about the DVD content that will now be exclusively sold and marketed through Navarre Distribution Services," continued Deacon. "These changes will allow us to focus our efforts on growing the sales of the DVD content that is most appealing to our retail customers and consumers. Mr. Bob Freese will be the executive in charge of this restructuring and will be responsible for the smooth transition of our BCI distribution partners."
This is unfortunate news for collectors in light of the fact that BCI was in the process of re-branding themselves as a legitimate distributor of licensed films after years of putting out dubious "public domain" titles under the scrapped Brentwood label, titles such as Sonny Chiba's THE STREET FIGHTER.
This closure is also bad news for employees at BCI as Navarre has also announced plans to cut its workforce.
Navarre purchased BCI back in 2003 for $15 million. It had previously been an exclusive distributor of public domain films, usually packaged in a seemingly endless assortment of cheap box sets.
In 2005, Cliff MacMillan was hired as BCI's Marketing and Acquisitions Manager. Having previously built up the Adness disc label which was responsible for the release of fully licensed Sonny Chiba classics, MacMillan began an effort to reshape BCI's reputation while continuing to deliver quality martial arts film entertainment. He created the Ronin label to specialize in Japanese action entertainment, although it never really took root.
MacMillan managed to acquire obscure kung fu classics licensed from British kung fu movie maven Toby Russell which were released under Russell's Rarescope banner. He also picked up some of Tony Jaa's pre-ONG BAK films. He really caught the attention of genre fans after picking up 15 martial arts classics from Celestial Entertainment's library of remastered Shaw Brothers films.
Perhaps even more important was the announcement of BCI's acquisition of 25 Asian action titles long buried in the vaults of Miramax Films. Some of these titles included Yuen Woo-ping's WING CHUN and DRAGONS FOREVER, starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao.
Cliff MacMillan has earned a lot of respect within the genre community for his dedication to releasing quality films and for his willingness to talk directly to the fans and buyers. Like the folks at Dragon Dynasty, he is one of the good guys and to see his efforts discarded, probably along with his job, is a real shame.
Presently, Navarre is scheduled to release four martial arts titles on January 6th. This includes Shaw classics LIFE GAMBLE and OPIUM AND THE KUNG FU MASTER, early Tony Jaa actioner HARD GUN and FLICKS WITH KICKS 2, a two-pack containing previously released Rarescope titles LOVE AND SWORD and CHOI LEE FUT KUNG FU. What will become of these titles as well as BCI's other unreleased martial arts films is up for speculation at this point. Navarre may let this most recent round of releases through and sift through the remaining library in order to decide which titles to keep or discard/sell off. We'll have to wait and see.