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Lion’s Gate to roar

Distrib plans to launch seven pix this year

NEW YORK — Vincent Gallo’s “Buffalo 66” and Noah Baumbach’s romantic comedy “Mr. Jealousy” lead a slate of seven films that will be distributed this year by Lions Gate Releasing.

Formerly known as Cinepix Film Properties, the Gotham-based specialty film distrib is a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., which also owns Canada’s largest studio facility and Mandalay Television.

Only excellence

“We are confident that our 1998 slate will appeal to all kinds of discerning filmgoers, representing as it does such a wide variety of genres, styles and perspectives,” said Mark Urman, president of Lions Gate Releasing. “While our production company is, for the first time, contributing to our roster of titles, we will always have room for acquisitions of all shapes and sizes. The only prerequisite is excellence.”

“Buffalo 66,” which was produced by Lions Gate, made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, where it screened in the dramatic competition. Pic follows a young man’s return home to his Italian-American working-class roots in Buffalo, N.Y., where football is the local religion.

Slated for release in June, “Buffalo 66” stars Gallo, Christina Ricci, Ben Gazzara, Roseanna Arquette, Mickey Rourke and Anjelica Houston.

Lions Gate recently acquired “Mr. Jealousy,” Baumbach’s followup to his 1995 directorial debut “Kicking and Screaming.” The story of a young man whose chronic jealousy damages his relationships stars Eric Stoltz, Annabella Sciorra and Chris Eigeman. It is skedded for a May 1998 release.

Here’s to “Highball”

At the same time that it acquired “Jealousy,” Lions Gate picked up Baumbach’s “Highball.” Shot in just six days, pic shares several cast members with “Jealousy” and also features Ally Sheedy, Justine Bateman and Rae Dawn Chong. “Highball” centers on three parties thrown over the course of a year.

“With the success of ‘Kicking and Screaming,’ Noah Baumbach is a proven filmmaker whose taste and sophistication dovetail perfectly with our sensibilities,” said Lions Gate Releasing exec veepee Tom Ortenberg, who negotiated the deals for “Mr. Jealousy” and “Highball” with producer Joel Castleberg.

The Lions Gate release sked also includes:

  • Tony Gatlif’s “Gadjo Dilo,” a French-language film about a man in search of the real person behind a gypsy voice he heard on a tape recording;

  • Bill Plympton’s “I Married a Strange Person,” an animated feature which uses humor to transform everyday life into a magical romp;

  • Barry Hershey’s “The Empty Mirror,” a Joel Grey starrer that explores what might have happened in the mind of a de-feated Adolf Hitler following World War II;

  • Richard Kwietniowski’s “Love and Death on Long Island,” the screen adaptation of British film critic Gilbert Adair’s cult novel, starring John Hurt and Jason Priestley;

  • Joe Carnahan’s “Blood, Guts, Bullets & Octane,” a low-budget thriller about two down-on-their-luck car dealers which screened at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals and will be released in October; and

  • Pat Sletaune’s “Junk Mail,” a Norwegian dark romantic comedy about an ordinary postman who unwittingly becomes involved in a world of crime, debuting in New York in April.

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