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Stratospheric deal

Icahn-backed distrib nabs Patriot's 'Cop'

PARK CITY, Utah — Stratosphere, the new domestic distribution venture backed by Wall Street mogul Carl Icahn, will distribute Patriot Pictures’ “One Tough Cop,” which stars Stephen Baldwin as legendary NYPD detective Bo Deitl.

The company also has acquired North American rights to three low-budget specialized films, Stratosphere president Paul Co-hen announced Saturday in Park City.

The 20-year industry vet said the company planned to release theatrically at least a dozen films per year beginning in the fall.

Of those, a handful of more potentially commercial offerings — including “One Tough Cop” — will be released in as many as 400 theaters. The balance will consist of smaller “voice” pictures, which will receive platform releases.

End of speculation

The company’s plans have been a subject of curiosity and speculation in the indie film world ever since its formation was announced in September (Daily Variety, Sept. 26).

Stratosphere acquired domestic rights to the German film “Bandits,” directed by Katha von Garnier; Adam Bernstein’s comedy “Six Ways to Sunday”; and writer-director Dan Zukovic’s satire “The Last Big Thing.”

The three pictures had been screened and passed on by other distributors. That fits with the company’s strategy of picking up films overlooked by the major specialized players, according to Cohen.

“We don’t see ourselves being involved in bidding wars,” said Cohen, who stressed that the company would focus its considerable resources on providing extensive P&A commitments for the films it distributes.

Cohen added that the company was looking only for theatrical-quality product and has no overall output arrangements for video or television, preferring instead to cut the best deal for each picture. He said Stratosphere eventually hoped to form strategic partnerships with overseas distributors.

New division

While Stratosphere is focusing exclusively on acquisitions, Cohen said that in about six months a production division would likely be announced.

Also at the press conference were Baldwin, Richard Abramowitz, who heads worldwide marketing and distribution for Stratosphere, and Patriot Films chairman Michael Mendelsohn.

Mendelsohn said he had “taken a little less to go with Stratosphere,” because he was confident the company would give “One Tough Cop” a successful launch.

The film, which Baldwin described as “an old-school, hard-core, down-and-dirty cop movie,” also stars Chris Penn, Mike McGlone (“The Brothers McMullen”) and Gina Gershon. It’s directed by Brazilian Bruno Baretto, whose credits include “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands” and the upcoming “Four Days in September.”

Produced by Martin and Michael Bregman, “Cop” follows Deitl and his partner’s investigation of the brutal rape-murder of a nun in Harlem.

Cohen, who worked as a film professor in Florida for three years before forming Stratosphere, has a long track record as a specialized film distributor.

In the 1970s, as head of Analysis Film, he brought to U.S. audiences such acclaimed foreign titles as Luchino Visconti’s “The Innocent” and Gillian Armstrong’s “My Brilliant Career.”

Later, topping Aries Film Releasing, he distributed “The Icicle Thief,” “My Twentieth Century” and Abel Ferrara’s “Bad Lieutenant,” among others.

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