“The King’s Speech” collected an impressive 12 Oscar nominations. 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 Symphony 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,” a Warner 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.

As for scoring, a handful of composers have continued to flourish, among them Hans Zimmer, who received an Academy Award nomination this year for his “Inception” score, and Michael Giacchino, who last year won an Oscar for scoring “Up.”

Privately, however, composers grouse about a world in which competition is intense, fees are shrinking and often tone-deaf directors, producers and studio executives throw resources at special effects and movie stars while shorting the music.

But Mr. Moross and his partners decided to alter the equation in 2008 by raising an initial $15 million fund, backed by the investment giant Aberdeen Asset Management, to let them pay producers in advance for music rights from films on which Cutting Edge would provide or broker services.

“We’ve got about a two-year head start,” Mr. Moross said of a model that he believes will become common as others begin to recognize that film music is a reliable, if not always huge, source of income.

In an interview last week, Mr. Moross described a system under which Cutting Edge paid producers a relatively modest amount for rights, usually $50,000 to $200,000. That, in turn, adds to the money already available for music budgets, which may in total be $300,000 to $500,000 on a film that costs, for example, $20 million to produce. In effect, the producer has taken a hedge, by giving up potential future profit from the music in return for ready cash. Cutting Edge then hunts for revenue not just from fees or commissions on music services, but by selling soundtracks (“The King’s Speech” is licensed to Decca Records), peddling sheet music, collecting royalties that are paid every time a movie ticket is sold in various countries around the world, licensing the music to advertisers, and, in a payoff that stretches over years, gathering fees that come due when a film plays on television.

(Pictured: Philip Moross, CEO Cutting Edge)

The company is building a library of managed rights, which includes, among others, the songs of Jim Croce. Its composers include Dario Marianelli (an Oscar winner for “Atonement”) and Patrick Doyle (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”).

Over the last year, Mr. Moross says, Cutting Edge provided services to about 100 films, including “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1,” from Warner Brothers, and “Thor,” which is due in May from Marvel Entertainment and Paramount.

To date, it has invested in 124 movies, he said. Those include “Whiteout” and “The Losers,” which were made under an arrangement with Dark Castle Entertainment and its chief, Joel Silver. Both films performed poorly at the box office, but television performance fees pile up, even on the misses.

“Value in recorded music is being overlooked,” said Nigel Sinclair, the co-chairman of Exclusive Media Group, a film financier that also has a standing deal with Cutting Edge and worked with the company on the vampire fantasy “Let Me In.”

Mr. Sinclair said of Cutting Edge: “They’ve figured it out.” Though to hear Mr. Moross tell it, the figuring did not come easily.

Mr. Moross is a son of an investor, M. D. Moross, and a stage actress, Edna Jacobson. He grew up in South Africa, studied molecular biology in London, trained to be an auditor with Arthur Andersen, and began building up capital of his own by buying and selling homes as real estate boomed.

He soon began developing residential real estate, then built a celebrity licensing business that was tied to an elaborate arrangement under which he swapped client endorsements to retailers in return for catalogue space for clothing that was manufactured by a company of his own in India. Jason Statham, now an action star, was a client.

Mr. Moross also became a producer of “Trollywood,” a 2004 documentary about homeless people in Los Angeles, and their dependence on shopping carts, known as “trollies” to the British.

Along the way, he became convinced, in his words, that “celebrity expires,” while music rights tend to endure. He and associates did elaborate research into the arcana of film music, coming up with a model that dictates what they will spend in advance on rights.

Those amounts, though relatively small, are increasingly attractive to struggling producers.

“If you can find people who help you keep the lights on long enough to succeed, that makes a big difference,” said Marty Bowen, whose Temple Hill Entertainment hit it big with the “Twilight” films, and used Cutting Edge on the low-budget Will Ferrell comedy “Everything Must Go.”

For Cutting Edge, said Mr. Moross, growth now means raising a second round of capital, and finding what seems plentiful: producers who need it. That also means focusing more heavily on Hollywood, with bigger films, bigger budgets and more risk. None of which is lost on Mr. Moross.

“The pavements of the U.S.,” he said dryly, “are littered with the bodies of dead British business people.”

Full article available here via the New York Times.