Dave Matthews’ ATO joins indie scene

Musician's co. bands with IDP to distribute films

Dave Matthews’ New York-based ATO Pictures is moving into domestic distribution, dispatching execs to the Croisette to look for projects to finance and distribute domestically.

ATO will release its films through IDP, the distribution partner of Samuel Goldwyn Films. ATO also has inked a deal with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment to handle all homevid platforms.

First title to be released under the partnership with Goldwyn is Bruce Beresford’s “Mao’s Last Dancer,” a biopic of terp Li Cunxin. Film broke box office records in Australia and will open Aug. 6 in the U.S.

Arrival of a new buyer on the scene is good news for the indie biz, which has seen a number of domestic distribs shutter in the past two years. ATO intends to release four to six films a year, both inhouse productions and acquisitions.

ATO said it will be able to provide both a U.S. distribution commitment and funding to complete a film’s financing plan, both essential elements in securing foreign presales and equity financing.

Matthews and music exec Coran Capshaw founded ATO in 2002 with an eye to finance and produce films in the $3 million to $10 million range.

Matthews is the second musician to get into the indie film distribution biz after Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who runs Oscilloscope.

Bolstering its ranks, ATO has brought on four film veterans to lead the company; Temple Fennell, who serves as CEO, Johnathan Dorfman, Peter Newman and Greg Johnson. Additionally, ATO recently tapped former Cinetic Media exec Sarah Lash to serve as head of acquisitions.

Lash is in Cannes with Dorfman and Newman.

“There is incredibly strong demand for films that are an alternative to the studio blockbusters,” Fennell said. “The supply of well-made, accessible films is not keeping up with the audience appetite. We believe this is the time to step into the ring as many companies step out.”

“We are delighted that ATO has chosen IDP as its theatrical distribution vehicle,” said Goldwyn CEO-chair Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and prexy Meyer Gottlieb.

Roadside Attractions previously had a similar arrangement with IDP.

Fennell said ATO’s intent is to take Capshaw and Matthews’ revolutionary marketing for the Dave Matthews Band and apply it to film marketing.

Capshaw relied heavily on the Internet to build an online fanbase and promote merchandise.

“Our goal is to take the successful and groundbreaking core business model of our sister companies in the music industry and our access to a deep pool of marketing, publicity and strategic resources, and to apply that to independent film audiences across the country and the world,” Fennell said.

ATO will keep close titles to several music companies, including ATP Records Group, Red Light Management, Starr Hill Presents and GreenLight Media & Marketing.

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