Producer unveils Maximum Films

MONTREAL — Canuck producer Robert Lantos is returning to distribution — and he’s taking on market leader Motion Picture Distribution right off the bat.

Tuesday, Lantos confirmed local rumors by unveiling his Maximum Films, a Toronto-based company that will have domestic and international distribution arms.

He has already wooed MPD client IFC Films, inking a multiyear output deal for Canadian rights to at least 30 films annually. Deal includes Hou Hsiao Hsien’s “The Flight of the Red Balloon” and Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park.”

Mark Musselman, head of business affairs at Maximum, said the company will announce more output deals with U.S. companies in the coming days.

It’s the latest move in the carve-up of the Canuck distrib biz, which began when Alliance Atlantis-controlled MPD was acquired by Toronto private equity firm EdgeStone Capital and Goldman Sachs earlier this year.

Lantos helped found Alliance Releasing, the company that eventually became MPD.

He has tapped two former colleagues from his days at Alliance Atlantis. Former Alliance exec Charlotte Mickie, who was most recently the Toronto-based managing director of Celluloid Dreams, will be managing director of Maximum Films Intl.

Anthony Cianciotta, who was general manager of Alliance Releasing, will head Maximum Film Distribution, the domestic unit.

Maximum Films is wholly owned by Lantos, who also owns production company Serendipity Point Films.

Maximum will distribute most of Lantos’ productions.

Lantos’ previous productions include “Where the Truth Lies,” “eXistenZ” and “The Sweet Hereafter.” He also produced David Cronenberg’s latest pic, “Eastern Promises,” though Maximum isn’t handling it.

“This is not a venture designed primarily to self-service our own in-house productions,” said Musselman, who also is a Serendipity exec. “We think there’s an opportunity presenting itself in Canada that we want to take advantage of. I think recent events at Motion Picture Distribution have demonstrated that the Canadian distribution marketplace, after being staid for many years, is moving into a period of transition.”

The creation of Maximum is the latest shift in the local biz. Toronto-based Entertainment One is aggressively pursuing market share; it recently acquired Montreal distrib Seville Pictures. Meanwhile, Christal Films of Montreal also is expanding in Canada.

The common wisdom used to be that you couldn’t make money in Canadian film distribution because MPD had such a dominant position, but many are sensing weakness in the previous market leader.

“All of the doomsday assumptions (about Canadian film distribution) were based on the assumption that Motion Picture Distribution would be the one and only player in the Canadian marketplace and I don’t think that’s as true as it was in the past,” Musselman said.

The Maximum Films Intl. slate will include Toronto opening pic “Fugitive Pieces,” a Lantos production from helmer Jeremy Podeswa; Guy Maddin’s “My Winnipeg”; Randall Cole’s “Real Time,” starring Randy Quaid and Jay Baruchel; Santosh Sivan’s “Before the Rains”; Atom Egoyan’s soon-to-be-lensed “Adoration”; and Sophie Barthes’ “Cold Souls” with Paul Giamatti.

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