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Big B.O. on a small scale

Global Indies 2011

Of the shingles profiled in Variety’s 2010 Global Indies feature, then-No. 3-ranking Overture Films, MGM (No. 7) and Miramax (No. 10) are either gone or have a radically reduced presence on the distribution scene. In their place are Relativity Media, FilmDistrict and Open Road Films, all three of which entered the distribution game this year, occupying the same space of mid-range budget, wide releases.

In another year of change for the indie sector, 2011 saw a few notable additions (and omissions) among its top players.

And while Overture is no more (the company was acquired by Relativity in July 2010), both MGM and Miramax still have operations, though neither are distributing their own films.

Miramax had a trio of pics — “The Debt,” “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and “Last Night” — that were left without a distrib after Disney sold the company for $663 million to a group of investors. Those films were acquired and released domestically this year via third-party distributors: Focus Features, FilmDistrict and Tribeca Films, respectively.

MGM, meanwhile, is partnering with Sony on the 23rd James Bond film, set for a Nov. 9, 2012, release, while Warner Bros. will handle distribution rights on New Line’s “The Hobbit” double-feature, the first of which (“An Unexpected Journey”) bows a month later on Dec. 14.

Another story this year was the microdistribs, with three notable shingles Sundance Selects, Producers Distribution Agency and China Lion, making waves:

Sundance Selects
$12 million
Sundance Selects was founded by parent company Rainbow Media in 2009 as a sister division to IFC Films. But Selects didn’t start gaining notice until this year when it acquired such high-profile fest titles as “Buck” and “Weekend.” Focusing primarily on docs and prestigious art fare, the distrib’s biggest success so far is Werner Herzog’s 3D doc “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” which cumed $5.2 million domestically.

Producers Distribution Agency
$3 million
With only three releases to its name, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA) already is a well-known entity on the indie scene. John Sloss and Bart Walker co-founded the company last year as a banner for “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” (Sloss repped the hit docu at Sundance.) PDA’s sophomore title — “Senna,” another Sundance docu — opened with 2011’s highest per-screen average for a docu at $36,748 and has cumed $1.6 million. Emilio Estevez’s “The Way” bowed Oct. 7, with $1.7 million so far.

China Lion Entertainment
$681,897
Meant to bolster an alternative-distribution pact with New Video, China Lion began partnering with AMC Entertainment earlier this year to release local Chinese-language pics theatrically in North America. The first pic to go through the exclusive AMC deal was “The Warring States” on April 22. Since then, China Lion has released five other films, including 3D soft-porn pic “Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy.”

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