‘Manhattan’ leap

Shelly pic puts Phaedra in the distrib game

Adrienne Shelly’s “Sudden Manhattan,” a romantic comedy of a woman pursued by a series of offbeat suit-ors, will be the maiden release of Phaedra Cinema, a distribution/production company begun by specialized vet Gregory Hatanaka.

The picture, the actress’s first feature behind the camera, debuted at the 1996 L.A. Independent Film Fest and is set for a March opening in N.Y. and a national specialized roll out.

Hatanaka’s new venture follows his recent departure as CEO of Filmopolis Pictures, where he handled such films as Satyajit Ray’s “The Stranger” and last year’s “Ma Saison Preferee,” with Catherine Deneuve. As an indie distrib, he successfully moved John Woo’s “The Killer” out of the Chinese-language theater circuit.

Stiff competition

“The competition in the specialized arena has never been more fierce,” Hatanaka said. “Major players are offering upfront guarantees for the most obviously accessible movies that most companies simply can’t afford. That’s forced the rest of us to work the niches, which I think is a real asset for indie filmmakers. It means each of us is picking up fewer titles, but they’re getting more attention and passion from distributors.”

Hatanaka said Phaedra primarily will focus on U.S. indies, at least at the outset. Among the company’s acquisitions are a number of LAIFF preems, including the self-explanatory comedy “The Rise and Fall of an All-Girl Bookie Joint” and the gay-themed comic mystery “No Ordinary Love.”

Also on its slate are the Sundance ’96 “Without Air,” a gritty tale of drugs and music; the Martin Donovan murder mystery starrer “The Rook”; and the noirish “Ratchet.” Phaedra also acquired the popular Indian movie “Roja” with hopes of releasing a series of pics from the prolific movie-making center.

bEye to Hong Kong

Currently, it’s preparing its first inhouse production, a U.S.-Hong Kong co-venture titled “Actress.” The story centers on a young Stateside woman caught up in a series of misadventures during the last days of the Crown Colony.

Hatanaka said he’s looking for a couple of specialized movies in the waning days of the Sundance fest. However, he noted it’s increasingly difficult to acquire during the event because of “outsized expectations it engenders among young filmmakers.

“It’s hard to convince someone that their film might not be as commercial as ‘sex, lies, and videotape’ or ‘The Brothers McMullen.’ ”

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