Distrib picks 'Picnic,' 'Marriage,' dons exhib robes

Nascent Gotham acquisition/distribution shingle Magnolia Pictures, run by prexy Eamonn Bowles and CEO Bill Banowsky, has picked up two pics for domestic distribution and has expanded into the exhibition biz with the launch of the Dallas-based Magnolia Theater.

Opening Jan. 11, the five-plex will screen firstrun and revival pics and also will host premieres. First up is Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 1987 “Decalogue.”

Bowles told Daily Variety the company is looking into buying more theaters in other parts of the country. He said exhibiting Magnolia Pictures releases at Magnolia’s theaters would be considered on a pic-by-pic basis.

Landmark Theaters, which recently opened the Sunshine Cinemas in Gotham, had been planning to launch the Dallas venue; however, Magnolia stepped in while Landmark was still in bankruptcy last May.

‘Picnic’ pickup

The new films Magnolia has nabbed for distribution are “Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” written and directed by Harry Shearer, and Dover Koshashvili’s “Late Marriage.” Former played at Dallas’ USA Film Festival and the Aspen Comedy Festival; latter screened at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival and is currently one of the highest-grossing pics in Israel. Magnolia Pictures plans to release “Bears” March 22 and “Marriage” May 18.

Set in a resort in Los Angeles, “Bears” is a comedy about the world’s top leaders, who for one week drink heavily while discussing world policy. Ensemble cast includes Shearer, Fred Willard, Morgan Fairchild and John Michael Higgins.

First-time Israeli filmmaker Koshashvili’s “Late Marriage” centers on a marriage-phobic 31-year-old trying to avoid his parents’ relentless matchmaking efforts.

Magnolia recently teamed with Ed Pressman and John Schmidt’s ContentFilm, which acquired Larry Fessenden’s thriller “Wendigo.” Magnolia will distribute the pic early this year.

Outside of his duties at Magnolia, Bowles was tapped by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal as head of programming for the inaugural Tribeca Film Festival, making its debut in lower Manhattan May 1-5 (Daily Variety, Dec. 17). The specialty film vet spearheaded production at Shooting Gallery, where the short-lived Shooting Gallery Film Series fell under his charge.

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