TheArchive During Covid

It’s morning and Darrin Holender is davening in his Beverly Hills office high above Wilshire Boulevard. There seems to be more to pray for than usual.

Split between prayers and sneaking a peek at the latest emails flooding his inbox, the Hollywood sign looms beyond his gaze far in the distance. And very few cars pass below on Wilshire.

The shades over the window slightly obscure its view and Darrin seems nonplussed by its usually daily reminder. The fact that Darrin has grown up with Hollywood in view and has never looked back, should say it all. And the fact that he is alone in the office should be no surprise either. He has his team safely distanced at home and has popped in to check the office, make sure the servers are still serving, and honestly, to give his wife and four kids a moment to appreciate what it’s like to have him return home from work at the end of the day.

As a kid, Holender would accompany his father, Irv Holender to meetings around town. Irv is a bit of a legend in this business. With a 50 year legacy as a television sales and licensing maverick, many credit him for inventing the space. Irv is a brash, no nonsense straight shooter who is known for sprinting through the office every day with purpose; quickly talking about the latest deal he is working on for the company he founded with his son 5 years ago, Multicom Entertainment. Irv only has one speed – and on any Coronavirus-free day, moves quickly through the office sharing different deal points with the respective stakeholder on the team responsible for executing. Usually by the time he gets to his corner office at the end of the hall, there are six different team members trying to keep up.

Today, he is on speaker-phone chatting rapidly with his son sharing a few updates on the current state of acquisitions before telling his only son he loves him and to stay safe. Then he’s surely off to make his next call. Interesting to note that Irv’s office, empty today, faces away from the Hollywood sign with a view west over Beverly Hills towards Century City. His shades are generally closed. He likely does not know which view he has. Not interesting to him.

What remains interesting to them both however, is their ongoing appetite to acquire more content and build a loyal community of viewers who can’t get enough of Multicom Entertainment’s vast library of film and television content much of which now lives on their AVOD channel TheArchive. Something Irv is still wrapping his head around as Darrin pushes forward on populating TheArchive with as much relevant 4K content as the team can curate.

TheArchive features well known 90s fare like Freeway, the Little Red Riding Hood cautionary tale starring Reese Witherspoon that spawned a sequel starring Natasha Lyonne and was originally meant to be a trilogy of nursery rhymes gone bad.

You will run into classic TV like Peter Gunn that just several years ago saw Steven Spielberg and Amblin involved and TNT developing as a contemporary series. While that reboot did not materialize its cult popularity has never waned….

Interesting titles of note abound - like A Woman Called Moses – Cicely Tyson’s award winning turn in the original Harriet Tubman film narrated by Orson Welles.

Another interesting title of note but not yet available on TheArchive is, The House on Sorority Row. Some years back, the junior Holender optioned the Multicom rights from the elder and produced a remake aptly titled Sorority Row, a slasher film directed by Stewart Hendler, written by Josh Stolberg, and starred Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, and Carrie Fisher. The film opened in the top five and did nearly $30 million of global box office.

One thing ties the whole library together: the parameters by which it is acquired. The content, for the most part, had to have been released on a broadcaster or exhibitor of note over the last 40 years – whether it be a network (CBS in the case of Blake Edwards' Mr. Lucky) or 1976’s horror box office hit Grizzly, the titles had a discernible level of production quality, recognizable cast or the like. This enables its sale to outlets all over the world, from South Africa Broadcast Company to cable providers in Europe to South American digital platforms.

Quite the niche.

Today the company boasts 7,000+ hours of content and over 1,300 titles. And they’re not only licensed to traditional TV companies around the globe. They are streamed. At a fairly significant clip.

Over the last half decade, the company has gone from a remote Inglewood storage facility filled with tapes and film pouring out of boxes, to a full fledged, highly technical post facility and sales and distribution company, headquartered in beautiful offices in Beverly Hills.

Offices today that are quiet but for its cofounder clicking through TheArchive’s performance. Is the audience watching? Are they coming back? What do they like?

It is important to note that, at Darrin’s insistence, the library be restored and digitized title by title in-house to take full advantage of the shift in viewing and the sheer scale of audience online around the world.

With a full 4K restoration pipeline, nearly 15% of the library has already been returned to its original, if not pristine condition. What’s more, the in house 4K process has netted over 100 beautiful 4K titles that TheArchive offers for free; notable since 4K restoration is generally pricey and complex.

Up until the Covid-19 pandemic, the team had been restoring the aforementioned award winning Harriet Tubman miniseries A Woman Called Moses. The intricate 4K restoration involves a reversal of the state of vinegar syndrome to rescue the movie from further decline and make it available to fans; especially in light of the recent and renewed interest in Tubman, with the studio release Harriet.

Emmy winning Cagney and Lacey has also found its way to The Archive and it too is being restored. Tyne Daly fans rejoice!

The post facility’s capabilities and return to quality can rival that of a Fotokem, Deluxe, or Technicolor. While not in scale, certainly in end-product.

With a lean team of 20+, successfully pivoted to remote work, all aspects of the digital pipeline, legal, marketing, distribution, operations that usually run out of two locations now run out of homes across the city. But it has not slowed the team down.

The Inglewood facility is usually reserved for storage and archiving, but now with a team of expert archivists at home, the search and discovery of a high quality master to net the most viable output to digital and eventually 4K, is on hold.

As a return to the office is inevitable, the team is eager to continue to unearth, index, catalogue, and ingest the content which is then sent to Beverly Hills for clean up and final edit to then be transcoded and uploaded to the various streamers and on to TheArchive.

Good to note that Darrin was an early believer and therefore adopter of digital. His strategy has stuck to a vision that ubiquity would be the best vehicle to serve the widest audience. Today, that vision is paying off with Multicom’s AVOD Channel, TheArchive, a treasure trove of “rare, retro, restored” mystique, 1000s of hours of kitsch, nostalgia, and “I know I’ve seen that before” and hard to find content.

The content also finds ubiquity across dozens of streaming choices many of which are global, including Amazon Prime, Amazon Fire, Tubi, Hoopla, OverDrive, Kanopy, Roku, Xumo, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu, Xbox, SonyPlaystation, Fandango, InDemand, Comcast, DirTV, Dish, Stirr, CorrConnect, which in the aggregate keep the content and operations team very busy. From restoration and editorial on through to sales and legal, the lean group hustles to keep the pipeline flush.

Darrin’s vision led Multicom to be one of the first indies to work with Amazon Prime, and now has the most content on the streamer of any non-major out there. In fact, any country Prime is in, so too is Multicom. And with billions upon billions of minutes viewed, there is an audience for the content.

An early believer in the power of RokuMulticom is now one of only a handful of approved content syndicators or aggregators as they are called, for the exploding platform.

With the early adoption of linear digital, Pluto burst on the scene to leverage the OTT boom. Multicom was one of the first to partner with Pluto and today has a significant percentage of the Viacom owned streamer’s content.

The strategy of ubiquity has paid off and does not compromise the audience and community building around The Archive’s content.

However, TVOD and physical DVD are still an important part of the mix as well. Multicom does continue to window its new content acquisitions. A regular fixture at all the major markets, Irv Holender and his acquisitions team is always out looking for the next addition to the library. While some of the library is licensed in and out, a vast majority of the Multicom Library is wholly owned. Windowing acquisitions through traditional and non-traditional means is vital to leveraging a property’s value.

And all through this, more acquisition of big libraries including Steve White, Michael Jaffe, Jon Avnet and others have allowed Multicom to secure the full rights in perpetuity to 100s of library titles that more fully flesh out TheArchive and its growing audience.

But today, while Darrin is attempting to enjoy a moment of solitude amidst a world still reeling but recovering, he steals a final glance at that ever present Hollywood sign before wrapping up his prayers, stepping out from his stand up desk and heading for the door.

At ease knowing he is contributing ever so slightly to entertaining people around the world, he is eager to just return home. Needless to say, he is also eager for a return to an office teeming with marketing budgets, community building, and distribution deals, but shakes off his anticipation for just a moment, in exchange for the excitement his kids will surely have to see him.

After all, it’s practically been three hours since he’s helped one of them through a Zoom math class.

More on Multicom and TheArchive.

TheArchive channel is dedicated to aficionados and lovers of story, craft, and silver screen fun – streaming rare, retro, and 4K restored films and classic TV. From indies and series, to Oscar winning documentaries, unearthed MOWs, and a killer horror library, TheArchive delivers forgotten, never-before-seen gems for free. HepburnKarloff, and John Wayne live alongside WitherspoonKeanu, and Samuel L. JacksonFind true stories of QueenHendrix, and Sinatra, an LGBTQ library, MLK bios, and world history docs. TheArchive has the movies and shows you either saw, should’ve seen, or should be watching now!