CEO Michael Arrieta at Big Air’s headquarters in Santa Monica.

CEO Michael Arrieta at Big Air’s headquarters in Santa Monica. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

For every “Precious,” “Winter’s Bone” or “Kids Are All Right” that come out of Sundance and other film festivals, there are thousands of other independent movies that never get to the multiplexes.

But Michael Arrieta and his partners at Big Air Studios think there is an audience for many of these low-profile films, and they claim to have a way to get them to audiences in any format and on any device.

For an upfront fee and a cut of the sales, the new Santa Monica-based company is offering distribution and marketing services to moviemakers who lack the resources and connections to get their films before the masses, or even a niche audience.

“A lot of these films are really, really amazing with so much creative passion put into them,” said Arrieta, a former executive at Sony Pictures. “We wanted to create a system that could take advantage of emerging outlets for distribution.”

Arrieta, 42, has teamed with film and TV executive Marc Sternberg and marketing specialist Bill Patterson to launch Big Air. After working for more than a year setting up the company, they let everyone know they were in business with a party at last month’s South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

The company was backed by financial contributions from the partners as well as investors whom Arrieta declined to identify. Big Air has nine employees, and is headquartered in an office park filled with other entertainment and technology companies. The company is located just a block away from the Yahoo and the Universal Music Group buildings.

Big Air has ambitions to become Hollywood’s newest mini-major, which pursue the same kind of deals as the major studios but on a smaller scale. It will produce at least four of its own films each year and acquire an additional eight to 10 for distribution, including this summer’s release “My Suicide,” which has won more than a dozen festival prizes.

What sets the company apart from the competition is its Independent Distribution System, a form of self-publishing for filmmakers who lack connections or expertise in the business part of moviemaking.

Depending on the level of services needed, the upfront cost to a filmmaker can range from $5,000 to $25,000. For that money, Big Air provides trailers, postproduction work, websites, and social and interactive marketing campaigns. It has teamed with San Jose-based Cisco Eos to build interactive online and mobile features to connect with fans.


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