Co. to acquire, release indie pix

As home entertainment continues to tighten its grip on all facets of the movie industry, New York production and financing shingle Hart Sharp, producer of Golden Globes picture nominee “Nicholas Nickleby,” is launching a homevideo company.

Former USA Home Entertainment president Joe Amodei will head Hart Sharp Video, bringing over most of his staff from USA, which he will expand to about 12 people based in New York, Amodei said.

The creation of Hart Sharp Video, said Hart Sharp principal John Hart, will allow the indie to consider more theatrical film release opportunities while capitalizing on the fast-growing market for movies that premiere on DVD.

While Harp Sharp Video will eventually acquire and release six to 10 indie films a year, the company will also empower Hart Sharp Entertainment to go more aggressively after features with a built-in homevid aud.

On homefront

Facing an Oscar season in which studios have made bold incursions into the specialty arena, with pics like “About Schmidt,” “Adaptation” and “Chicago” competing for arthouse screens, Hart Sharp is hoping a vid label gives it more leverage to develop a wider range of specialty projects.

Those include urban pics, whose theatrical audience has proved elusive for many niche distribs. “To reach an African-American audience,” Hart said, “conventional wisdom is you have to be on 600 screens.”

It also includes more experimental projects like a bigscreen adaptation of the Wallace Shawn play “Marie and Bruce,” which Hart Sharp hopes to produce with Julianne Moore and Matthew Broderick starring.

Hart said producers are finding it harder to mount major indie productions in a crowded marketplace — a problem compounded by the increasing scarcity of foreign financing sources.

Hart said Todd Haynes’ 1995 pic, “Safe,” which he exec produced, is the sort of challenging feature that’s extremely difficult to make in this climate.

Amodei said the company will target indie producers in New York who are tired of giving up video and cable rights when they sell their films to a major company. The company will compete with smaller indie vid labels such as First Look, York, MTI and even Lions Gate with a mix of urban and eclectic films. Only selected films from Hart Sharp Entertainment will be released through its new video company.

HSV already has signed deals for specialty product in the sports and live entertainment arenas as well as celebrity archive videos.

Company also has signed a deal with Ventura Distribution/Urban Works Entertainment to help that retail-oriented company gain distribution in the rental market by distributing 10-14 titles in 2003.

Following Amodei to HSV are USA veterans Camille Perretti-Fiato, Lynne Hillman, Evelyn Carrasco, Larisa Elzon, Mark McCaffrey and Scott Voss.

“I’m fortunate to gather the group back together again,” Amodei said.

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