Lynch pins down pic rights

Helmer will self -distribute 3- hour DV pic

This article was updated at 11:43 p.m.

NEW YORK — David Lynch is bringing “Inland Empire” into his fiefdom, buying the North American rights to the film from French producer Studio Canal and making plans to distribute the pic himself.

Pic’s producer Mary Sweeney said that movie will be released to theaters before the end of the year, and will eventually also be sold online and on other platforms.

“David is really game for anything,” Sweeney said. “He just wants to explore different methods for distributing the film.”

Sweeney said that the movie will go exclusively into a theatrical window, but after that all bets are essentially off, with homevid, television and online platforms all being exploited in new ways. Movie could be sold on Lynch’s own Website as well as on partner sites.

Director, who also serves as a producer on “Empire,” was also said to be frustrated because he felt his past movies stayed in theaters too long, putting a freeze on homevid and other aftermarket revenue streams.

Lynch and Sweeney will use as-yet unnamed partners and service agreements to facillitate theatrical and New Media distribution.

Surreal “Empire” interweaves several plot strands, including a fictitious film project, a sitcom with characters in bunny costumes and Polish prostitutes; it figures in Hollywood and L.A. in manner reminiscent of his 2001 effort, “Mulholland Dr.” It’s also shot entirely in digital-video and runs three hours.

Announcement provides a coda to what had been subject of feverish speculation in indie world ever since “Empire” screened in Venice to mixed and sometimes confused reactions. Some execs said the film was simply too tough a sell, raising the possibility that self-distribution was Lynch’s best option.

Still, a number of distribs had told the filmmaker they were interested in buying the film after it screened for the industry at the New York Film Festival last week and for the public this week.

As parties expressed their interest, however, Lynch became increasingly determined to release the movie himself, according to those familiar with negotiations.

Like Stephen Soderbergh’s “Bubble” and upcoming Morgan Freeman-starrer “10 Items Or Less,” release will test viability of a new approach to windows. Lynch has a devoted online fan base that Sweeney says could make strategy pay off.

“We in the film world all think we’re playing by the rules we’ve created,” she said. “But the kids are already ahead of us in finding new ways to access information,” she said.

At New York Film Festival press conference, Lynch was effusive about possibilites of new technology, promoting digital-video by saying “film is dead” and noting that with digital technology, “It’s a beautiful world that we live in.”

Deal also sheds light on helmer’s cryptic comment at the Friday presser that film had “technically” not found distribution.

Move follows the path of another unusual distribution deal, Bob Yari’s “The Illusionist,” in which producer decided to start a distribution arm and release the movie himself after turning down several offers..

Lynch has remained reluctant to comment on his own films. When a questioner at the press conference suggested an interpretation of some of the elements in “Empire,” he said only “Those words you said were very beautiful.”

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