Glenn Beck’s Dying Empire Gives Up on the Hollywood Dream
Glenn Beck’s financially troubled multimedia empire took another hit over Labor Day Weekend as Beck announced that Mercury Radio Arts, his privately held umbrella company, has abruptly stopped producing scripted film and television projects under his once-cherished subsidiary American Dream Labs.
In a statement posted on his website, Beck characterized the apparent shutdown as a “divorce” because American Dream Labs “needs to exist separate and apart from Mercury in order to spread its wings.”
The demise of the Beck subsidiary is the latest troubling development for a once-flourishing enterprise that in the past year has terminated nearly half its estimated 300 employees, lost cable distribution and advertisers as Cablevision dropped Beck’s daily programming, and suffered a steep drop in its online audience. In recent months, Mercury and its subsidiary, The Blaze, have become embroiled in cash-flow problems and costly litigation, notably against Beck’s former chief executive and ex-friend and confidant Christopher Balfe, whom Beck fired in December 2014 to make way for the promotion of tech entrepreneur Jonathan Schreiber.
Balfe is countersuing, claiming he is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred compensation and legal costs for his defense, and that if Beck prevails in a jury trial, Beck must pay the judgment to himself.
As recently as eight months ago, Beck was proudly touting the ambitious work of his American Dream Labs subsidiary, which he launched in 2013. Under the headline, “Get ready for big things with American Dream Labs in 2016,” he wrote: “I am very excited to share where we have been and where we are going… Watch this three minute video and see the TV shows and movies that are now in production. It is going to be a great 2016!”
That “big thing,” however, turned out to be a cessation of operations, and that optimistic video was made private and inaccessible, apparently over the weekend, while the American Dream Labs web site was also taken off line.
In a low-key obituary for ADL, as Beck called it, that was posted late Friday afternoon—a bit of timing seemingly designed to bury bad news as fans and outside observers were already in holiday mode—the 52-year-old Beck wrote: “We often hear there is no such thing as a ‘good’ divorce. I guess in business, that’s not always the case. Ben [McPherson, a Christian-oriented filmmaker and the head of ADL] and I have come to the same conclusion: ADL needs to exist separate and apart from Mercury in order to spread its wings.”
Beck, whose corporate operations are based in the Dallas, Texas, suburb of Las Colinas, added: “ADL wanted to be in Los Angeles where it could be more than ‘Glenn Beck’s side project.’ It wanted and needed the opportunity to build its own brand and identity.”
McPherson didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Among the projects that Beck trumpeted but didn’t release, several of which ADL produced video trailers for (which are no longer available online), were what Glennbeck.com described in a headline as a “‘Radical’ New Spanish-Language Film, and One That Will Change the Way You See Santa”; and television series titled “History House” featuring the use of Claymation technology and starting with the legend of Johnny Appleseed.
“When we tell the story, we’re going to start in Claymation, and we’re pretty proud of this fact, we get 13 seconds a day out of our shooting,” Beck declared in March 2015 about the Appleseed project. “Our days are about 14 hours long, but we get 13 seconds a day. So you know, we’re not cheating on quality, we just are doing it differently. I have some really good brainiacs who have figured out different ways to do things, but the industry norm is seven seconds a week. I don’t have the patience for that.”
A Beck spokesman elaborated Monday on his Labor Day Weekend statement: “The content is being redistributed between MRA and ADL as described in the statement you saw, and will be back online shortly, divided between both sites to reflect the new ownership and structure.”
The spokesman later said McPherson will take ownership of the enterprise.
In his own statement, Beck held out the hope “that many, if not all of the projects I’ve told you about, will be brought to life either by MRA or ADL respectively… I wish nothing but success to ADL and expect to see amazing things from them in the years to come. Their first project that I can mention is the Church of Martyr[s] documentary”—about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East—“you have heard about. After all we’ve been through together, I hope they’ll still consider sending me a screener.”