“The King’s Speech” collected an impressive12 Oscar nominations last week. It might have stopped short of a dozen without help from a British entrepreneur who has planted his business at the tricky intersection of film and music.
In an unconventional deal that may promise a revival in film music, the Cutting Edge Group, based in London, and its chief executive, Philip Moross, effectively bought the musical portion of “The King’s Speech” months ago.
The investment then let the film’s producers hire Alexandre Desplat, the award-winning French composer whose score was among its nominations, and recruit the London Philharmonic Orchestra to record works of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms that would otherwise have been performed by a small ensemble.
“What we wanted to do was get the music that would do the images justice,” Iain Canning, a producer of “The King’s Speech,” said in an interview by phone last week of the decision to give up rights to the music in return for having enough money to get the music right. He added of Cutting Edge: “They inflate your music budget.”
Traditionally, movie producers pay companies like Cutting Edge, which also manages catalogs of music rights and represents music supervisors and composers (though not Mr. Desplat), for help in assembling the scores and songs in their films.
The role played by a company like Cutting Edge varies widely from film to film. Though creative control remains with the director and producers, the company will generally provide or recruit a music supervisor, who suggests what songs to include and helps clear the rights, and a composer who writes the score. It may also provide recording studio services, operate its own record label, administer publishing rights and distribute the music in other forms after a film is released.
But music budgets have been dwindling for at least a decade, as piracy, cheap downloads and collapsing CD sales made it virtually impossible for film producers to recoup from hit soundtracks the money they spend on music.
In the heyday of the soundtrack business, the music for “The Bodyguard,” aWarner Brothers film that in 1992 starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, sold almost 12 million albums in the United States, according to a recent report by Nielsen SoundScan. (The soundtrack included the megahit “I Will Always Love You.”) In a diminished era, the “Twilight” soundtrack was considered a smash when it hit two million.