MONTREAL — Four film-industry veterans who left top Canuck distrib Alliance Releasing in recent weeks turned up Thursday at the Vancouver Film Festival to announce that they have formed a new Canadian distributor that will be primarily dedicated to helping western Canadian filmmakers.

Red Sky Entertainment, to be based in Vancouver, will focus first and foremost on assisting helmers and producers from British Columbia and other provinces in the West. The company’s mandate is to boost the region’s cinema profile nationally.

B.C. industryites have long complained that the film distribution biz in Canada is almost totally dominated by companies in Toronto and Montreal.

Tony Cianciotta, the former Alliance Releasing senior vice president and general manager, is president of the new outfit, and he is joined in the executive ranks by three fellow Alliance alumni: vice-president of sales Dave Forget, marketing veepee Mary-Pat Gleeson and Anna Maria Muccilli, who will serve as VP of publicity and promotion.

Red Sky has yet to ink any output deals or agreements with West Coast filmmakers, but discussions are already underway with filmers in Vancouver, according to the Red Sky execs.

“A lot of films are being produced here and there’s no representation of those people,” said Cianciotta. “But we’ll also distribute films from around the world. Who’s to say there isn’t room for another (Canadian distributor) — particularly here in the West.”

Some industry observers wonder if the small Canadian domestic market is big enough to sustain another indie distrib, with the scene already occupied by several larger players, notably Alliance, CFP Distribution and Malofilm Distribution. Cianciotta and his colleagues plan to concentrate on smaller, labor-intensive pics and feel the western flavor will distinguish them from the Canadian distribution pack.

The executives at Red Sky are tight-lipped on the subject of who exactly is financing the venture, stating only that the company is backed by private investors from British Columbia. The four former Alliance executives are all also minority shareholders in the new venture.

News of the foursome’s departure from Alliance Releasing’s head office in Toronto, coupled with Alliance’s Quebec-based veepee Pierre Brousseau’s exit earlier this summer, has led to speculation regarding low staff morale at Alliance, but the company’s distribution chief, vice-chairman Victor Loewy, says it’s business-as-usual for Canada’s largest distrib.

“There was no crisis,” Loewy said. “It has nothing to do with Alliance. I’m extremely happy with the people who are here and this will be our biggest Christmas ever.

“It’s not a worry at all.”

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