Indie shingle comes a-Courtin’

Wellspring, Court TV create advantageous partnership

At Sundance, Paramount grabbed mountains of ink by partnering with its sister MTV Films to land “Hustle & Flow” and another Viacom unit — Nickelodeon — to buy kiddie dance doc “Mad Hot Ballroom.”

But just because a micro-distributor doesn’t have a cable net at its fingertips doesn’t mean it can’t take a similar track.

Wellspring, the Gotham-based distrib behind such arthouse fare as “The Brown Bunny” and “Tarnation,” closed a deal Feb. 4 to buy Sundance doc “Unknown White Male” with Court TV.

Rupert Murray‘s pic follows the true story of a Brit who wakes up on a Coney Island-bound subway car with amnesia and tries to piece his life back together.

Cable net A&E struck similar deals with ThinkFilm on docu “Murderball,” and Newmarket’s “Rock School,” prior to Sundance, but it’s a first for Court TV, and the deal was built on the fly as bids came in.

The move offers a lean outfit like Wellspring valuable promo time on the cable net during “Male’s” theatrical run, which the distrib wouldn’t normally spring for. Court TV, in turn, has a chance to increase the film’s value by trying to goose theatrical biz.

“It’s mutually advantageous for us to partner with Wellspring,” says Court TV development VP Mark Fichandler. “There will be co-branding opportunities and cross-promotion, plus we get the prestige of a theatrical release.”

Submarine’s Josh Braun, who engineered the deal with Roger Kass, added that under such a scenario, filmmakers wind up with a bigger slice of the pie than if they opted to sell off all rights to one specialty division with its output pacts already in place.

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