Mark Damon’s Vision Intl. has taken over all distribution responsibilities for the films produced by Epic Prods., the Eduard Sarlui-Moshe Diamant operation that aspires to enter the ranks of suppliers of big-budget indie films.
The move adds domestic distribution supervision to Vision, which already oversees the foreign placement of Epic’s output.
With a co-venture production arrangement with Michael Douglas’ Stonebridge Entertainment in a unit known as Stone Group Pictures, Epic says it will now devote itself fulltime to a production program that involves a tie with Columbia Pictures for domestic distribution.
“We are no more in distribution or sales. We’ve built a solid foundation and it’s time to expand… in the entertainment community,” said Epic’s co-chairman and co-chief executive officer Diamant, who under the new setup becomes co-chairman of Vision, a privately held company headed by Damon in which Diamant and Sarlui, as individuals, have an interest.
The Sony Corp. also holds a minor interest in Vision, a hold-over of the share once held by Peter Guber and Jon Peters before they became the chief executives of Columbia. Vision has been and continues to be the exclusive foreign sales agent for all product turned out by Epic and Stone Group.
The new arrangement calls for Vision chairman/CEO Damon to become an Epic shareholder (amount undisclosed), and gives him a seat on Epic’s board and a voice as a member of Epic’s executive committee.
Principals of both Epic and Vision insist that the new structure does not constitute a merger and that both companies remain separate privately held entities.
Both Damon and Diamant called attention to the separate revolving credit lines they have with their “primary banker,” Credit Lyonnais Bank Nederland. They did not disclose the amount, but Damon said Vision recently concluded a new three-year line of credit with the bank.
All Epic marketing and distribution operations, headed by Elliot Slutzky, president of domestic marketing and distribution and president of Epic Home Video, will be integrated into Vision. What has now become the Vision domestic marketing staff has relocated to new offices in Culver City so that it can work closely with Columbia and RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video on existing distribution deals of both Vision and Epic, which continue to share separate headquarter offices in a building on Cahuenga West.
Entire marketing staff moving
The Slutzky-headed domestic marketing department liaisons with Columbia on the release of all Stone Group films while the unit prepares the campaigns and supervises the p&a for the Epic pics released under Col’s Triumph label. It is fully involved in the marketing campaigns for all product that goes through the RCA/Columbia vid division.
In addition to Slutzky, the entire marketing staff – David Garber, senior v.p. theatrical distribution and ancillary sales, Jeff Fink, v.p. sales/marketing of Epic Home Video, and Debra Stein, v.p. publicity and promotion – moves over to Vision.
Damon said Vision no longer will produce on its own, but will continue to fully fund negative pickups, as it did recently with “Hit Man” and Zalman King’s “Blue Movie Blue.”
As an example of Epic’s new production thrust, Diamant cited the kind of pics it has in development, including “Carlito’s Way,” the more than $20 million action drama starring Al Pacino which Martin Bregman will produce. Company also is in preproduction on “Enter The New Dragon,” touted as “the biggest martial arts picture ever.” It is scheduled to be shot in China and other Far East locations.
Sarlui, Pfeffer remain
The positions of Epic co-chairman Sarlui and prexy Andrew Pfeffer remain unchanged under the new setup, according to Damon and Diamant.
Epic Prods., founded in 1988, is an outgrowth of Trans World Entertainment, a small foreign sales video company founded by Diamant. When Sarlui became a partner, Epic was formed, both as a production company and to liquidate the assets of a company headed by Charles Band, a firm in debt to Credit Lyonnais.
Sarlui and a Dutch group were said to have acquired the Band firm’s production output. That part of the operation apparently has been phased out as Epic sets its sights on bigtime indie production. TWE, although no longer mentioned, remains in force as the owner of a 150-picture library of mostly exploitation-type films.