Sundance to unspool video label

Vesper named exec director of ancillary rights acquisitions

The Sundance Channel will launch a video label this fall that will release up to 12 titles per year in a range of genres on VHS and DVD through parent Showtime’s video distribution arm.

Showtime is a one-third owner of Sundance Channel, with Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford and Vivendi Universal.

In a related announcement, Sundance Channel named Christian Vesper executive director of ancillary rights acquisitions. He was previously director of film programming at HBO, VP of business development for iFilm and director of business and legal affairs at October Films.

First release for Sundance Channel Home Entertainment is writer-director Billy Morrissette’s “Scotland, PA.,” starring Maura Tierney, James LeGros and Christopher Walken, out Oct. 19. Film unspooled in competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Second title will be romantic comedy “Amy’s O.”

“Every time Sundance has launched a new initiative, it has suspected there is a market for it and discovered the audience is far hungrier for these films than the industry imagines,” said Paola Freccero, senior VP of film programming for Sundance Channel.

Most films will premiere on video before showing on the cable network.

Vid rental giant Blockbuster has small “Sundance Channel Recommends” in-store sections of independent product released on various labels and gets first shot at most of sister Viacom division Showtime’s rental product, but it won’t have an inside line on the Sundance-branded product.

“The relationship with Blockbuster was a marketing relationship. Now we’re adding a layer where we become a seller as well,” Freccero said. “We will work toward a relationship between having our films on the new release walls and later in the ‘Sundance Channel Recommends’ section.”

Sundance already adds extras such as filmmaker interviews to its TV showings of films and will expand the extras for DVD, Freccero said.

(Cindy Spielvogel is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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