Niche newbies

Nascent shingles reveal what they aim to bring to the domestic distrib'n biz

Established: 2004
Topper: Philippe Diaz, founder
Releases: “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism” and Aaron Russo’s “America: Freedom to Fascism”; upcoming: “Buena Vista Social Club” follow-up “Musica Cubana” on Sept. 19, Indie Spirit award winner “Conventioneers” on Oct. 13 and “Raising Flagg” on Feb. 7.
Why: “All of these independent distributors started disappearing five years ago, and we realized that nobody was distributing small independent, political films,” Diaz explains.
Their take: “We want this company to handle fare that nobody else wants to handle, subjects that nobody wants to touch. … We do our own theatrical, video and TV distribution. We also have an active post-production branch with four editing suites, three sound rooms and digital transfer services. …We’ve always refused shareholders, for there comes a point in the discussion when there’s a decision about who gets final cut.”

Established: 2004
Toppers: Rob Barnum and Joshua Newman
Releases: Quirky sex comedy “The Oh in Ohio” with Parker Posey, Paul Rudd and Danny DeVito; upcoming: 2006 Slamdance winner “We Go Way Back” and 2002 San Francisco Indiefest best pic winner “Ever Since the World Ended.”
Why: “Given the new channels of how people are finding movies, we believe there’s room for outside-the-box thinking,” Newman says. “We’re not trying to take down Fox, but we think there’s a way to get a small percent of the marketplace. We’re about getting in front of a specific audience in a smarter way. There is room for new distributors; it’s not an oversaturated market, plus there’s definitely room for more video watching.”
Their take: “We’re escapees of the dot-com world, and we think there’s a way to bring Internet thinking to film distribution. Our model is to distribute medium-sized releases without spending a lot on P&A so that filmmakers can make money in the process. … We want to demonstrate cost-conscious releasing such as leveraging bloggers and single-person interaction with postcarding. … We’re focused on the Internet and grassroots. … Small releases only make sense for a distributor when they drive up the gross-to-cost ratio.”

Established: 2005
Toppers: Former MGM international distrib and marketing execs Peter Peterson and Paul Hudson
Releases: Docu “Buzz” on Aug. 25 about noir scribe A.I. Bezzerides, Frances O’Connor Oz drama “Three Dollars” on Sept. 8, “Jimmy and Judy” with Edward Furlong on Sept. 15 and “5 Days in September” this fall.
Why: “It doesn’t seem like the indie landscape is overpopulated, particularly with certain distribs already gone,” Peterson says. “There’s all these high-class films shot with big budgets and professional actors that play on the film festival circuit which never get released but are up for grabs.”
Their take: “We’re really trying to be a one-stop shop where we handle all the rights on a particular film from TV to international. We’re meeting with filmmakers pre-festival. Initially our goal is to distribute our films domestically in the smaller cities like San Francisco, Portland and Seattle before opening in Los Angeles and New York based on the traction of a film. It’s no different than opening a Broadway show.”

Established: 2004
Topper: Marty Zeidman, former Miramax distrib topper and Landmark Theaters pic buyer
Releases: Docu “Paperclips,” “Kids in America” and “Innocent Voices”; upcoming: a reissue of 1964’s “Becket”
Why: “Many of the films being made today aren’t finding conventional forms of distribution,” Zeidman says. “The indie arms of the studios are working with more prolific indie films,typically producing on their own and not acquiring as much. Titles that are widely received at festivals and other venues are having difficulty finding a release.”
Their take: “Finding films that have a chance to survive in the marketplace and work with specific demographics, whether it’s ‘Innocent Voices’ and Hispanic audiences or ‘Kids in America’ and teenagers. … Our business plan is to work within our financial resources. We don’t spend money on acquiring rights. I act in many instances as an enabler and a facilitator of distribution and marketing throughout a film’s theatrical release. Distribution and marketing costs are typically raised by a film’s producers.”

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