New distrib to specialize in African-American pics

Entertainment attorneys Leroy Bobbitt and Virgil Roberts have teamed up with veteran film distribution exec Milton Goldstein to form a distribution company, StreetSmart Pictures, that specializes in the release of African-American films.

Based in Los Angeles, StreetSmart aims to release at least five pictures a year targeted at the top seven markets with the largest African-American audiences — New York, L.A., Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

Bobbitt and Roberts will serve as co-chairmen of the company, with Goldstein serving as the chief operating officer and handling marketing and distribution.

Shingle, bankrolled by unnamed private investors, will commit limited P&A to titles that will be released by a network of regional subdistributors assembled by Goldstein.

Full-service op

It will operate as a full-service distribution company encompassing theatrical, pay TV, homevideo, pay cable and foreign sales. Deals will also be struck for broadcast TV and soundtrack participation where appropriate on specific titles.

No titles have been announced, but the primary source of product is expected to be supplied by independent African-American producers with the focus on indie fare and product traditionally not acquired or released by the major studios.

The company is also expecting to seek ongoing relationships with young African-American producers to provide a continuing flow of product for its distribution pipeline.

Research-based

“Our research has shown that African-American films will gain optimum financial returns by targeting initial releases to the seven markets with the largest African-American audiences,” Bobbit said, adding that the company has the flexibility to expand to selected theaters in the top 25 metropolitan areas in North America.

The company will not invest directly into film production but will partner with producers and work directly with them on fully financed product, enabling theatrical exposure for films that currently have no theatrical home and thus hoping to maximize these titles potential for ancillary sales.

Some background info

Bobbitt, a former partner at Loeb & Loeb in L.A. after joining the firm in 1974, repped such clients at the law firm as Paramount Pictures, NATPE Intl., the African National Congress, the NAACP Image Awards and Interscope Communications.

Roberts began his legal career in 1972 with the law firm Pacht, Ross where he repped such clients as Bill Cosby, Dionne Warwick, Berry Gordy and Motown Records.

He formed his own private practice and then joined Solar Records in 1981 as president. Solar helped launch the songwriting and producing careers of Jimmy “Jam” and Terry Lewis, Antonio “LA” Reid and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. He was also involved in developing the careers of such acts as the Whispers, Midnight Star and Shalamar.

In 1996 Bobbitt and Roberts formed their own entertainment law practice specializing in film, music, licensing and merchandising.

Goldstein’s resume

Goldstein, a 40-year distribution, sales and marketing veteran, spent 15 years at Paramount Pictures where he rose to foreign sales manager for the studio. He then became VP of the Samuel Bronston Organization, where he was one of pioneers championing the notion of preselling films on a territory-by-territory basis in the international marketplace.

In 1971 he was appointed president of Cinema Center Films, then the theatrical arm of CBS. From 1977-85 he worked for Melvin Simon Prods., becoming the company’s president and chief operating officer, responsible for such films as “Love at First Bite,” “When a Stranger Calls” and “Porky’s.”

He has served as a producer’s rep for “Uptown Saturday Night” and “Claudine,” and for the last 15 years headed his own consulting firm for the entertainment business.

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