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U.S. ‘Grand’ plan

Swipe to handle release of Gram Parsons pic

A correction was made to this article on May 17, 2004.

Swipe Films, Frank Mannion’s London-based production, distribution and sales company, plans to dip its toe into U.S. distribution with the July 18 theatrical release of its Johnny Knoxville starrer “Grand Theft Parsons.”

Swipe, which produced the pic, will open it in two theaters — the Laemmle Fairfax in Los Angeles and the Village East in New York. Co-producer Morty Stevie G Prods, which bankrolled the $1 million pic, also is supporting the U.S. release.

CAA sold U.S. video and TV rights to Blockbuster’s DEJ subsid following the movie’s Sundance premiere, but Mannion said the plan was always to secure a theatrical outing as well.

“Grand Theft Parsons,” directed by Irish helmer David Caffrey, written by Jeremy Drysdale and co-starring Christina Applegate, is based on the bizarre events that followed the death of country rock legend Gram Parsons. Claiming he was honoring a promise to Parsons, road manager Phil Kaufman (Knoxville) stole his corpse and took it out to Joshua Tree National Park in the California desert for an amateur cremation, with police and family members in hot pursuit.

Pic got some decent reviews in Blighty, where it was released by Redbus in March and grossed $100,000. The U.K. release was supported by Miller beer, which had a product placement deal on the movie and is in talks to participate in the U.S. bow.

“This is a niche picture that will have a niche release,” Mannion said. “When you start up any new venture, you’ve got to proceed with caution and financial restraint. But in the U.S., and particularly in Los Angeles, there’s a huge amount of interest in Gram Parsons. This is truly a quintessential Californian story.”

After premiering at Sundance, it was the closing movie May 1 at the Nashville Film Festival, where it unspooled in the presence of Emmylou Harris, one of Parsons’ closest musical collaborators.

Mannion is hoping to follow “Grand Theft Parsons” with further U.S. releases, and will be shopping for “two or three” movies at Cannes. He recently released his first film in the U.K. — Spanish sex comedy “The Other Side of the Bed” — and will open Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Cat’s Meow” June 4 in Blighty. He has sold both pics to pay TV outlet Sky and to Universal for video release.

Mannion also acts as a sales agent, repping Siddiq Barmak’s “Osama” with considerable success at Cannes last year. At this year’s fest he is handling sales on the Sundance prize winner “Down to the Bone.”

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