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KEYSTONE COPS PIC

Firm recalls rights to Leary's 'Underworld'

Amid AFM buzz that Keystone Entertainment is on the block, the Vancouver-based production and distribution company has taken back the domestic theatrical distribution rights of its Denis Leary starrer ”Underworld” from Trimark Pictures and will now release the film through Hollywood-based Legacy Releasing.

Keystone prexy Robert Vince said the decision to pull the noir thriller back was made ”because we felt the film had great potential and had legs. This is a terrific film with Denis Leary, who is the key to this film getting made. We feel this is the film by which he could really break out and become a big star.”

Vince reiterated that the Vancouver-headquartered company (with offices in Malibu) will only produce films for theatrical release, but he would not give specifics about Keystone’s differences with Trimark over the release of the pic. ”This was an amicable situation, and I respect them for being men enough to allow us to do this.”

”Our ideas were just different toward the film,” said Tim Swain, exec VP of domestic distribution for Trimark. ”And since we’ve had a good relationship with Robert, we’re letting them do the theatrical release themselves. We’ll still participate and contribute to the film as far as artwork, and give input about its release.”

Trimark chairman Mark Amin has an exec producing credit on the film, and Trimark will distribute the video domestically.

A source close to the project said Trimark ”preferred taking the film out as an art film, but Keystone wanted to go out more commercially. They (Trimark) were not giving it the time and attention Robert thought it deserved. The more business it does theatrically, the better its chances on video.”

Legacy prexy Mark Borde told Daily Variety that the film is slated to be released May 9 in limited engagements in New York, L.A., Boston, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Borde said that he hopes to put a total of 50 prints in circulation with ”anywhere from $750,000 to $1 million in P&A.”

Borde (under his then-eponymous banner) also released Keystone’s ”Bulletproof Heart” in 1995, after Keystone had taken back the domestic theatrical rights from Republic. The film went on to ring up $400,000 at the box office and subsequently shipped 100,000 video units.

”Underworld” is helmed by Roger Christian (winner of an Academy Award for set decoration on ”Star Wars”), penned by Larry Bishop and co-stars Joe Mantegna and Annabella Sciorra

Keystone has undergone a recent restructuring following the departure of sales topper Arthur Kananack at the end of 1996. Kananack has since established his own sales company with an office at the AFM. Keystone’s newly-established family film banner, Keystone Family, has produced ”Air Bud,” the $4.7 million film that Miramax/Disney acquired just before the AFM. Sources say the deal could bring Keystone as much as $6 million for domestic rights and rights to sequels.

According to sources, Keystone is being pursued for acquisition by European broadcaster CLT as well as United News and Media of the U.K., and possibly others. Vince declined to confirm or deny.

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