Hu celebrates Teddy Jubilee at Berlin

Exec brings distrib expertise to duty

He’s the openly gay distributor and producer of numerous landmark LGBT films, newly chosen to head the 25th Jubilee Teddy Awards jury of the world’s top gay film kudos.

But Marcus Hu would just like to clear up one thing: While 25% of its library is LGBT, Strand Releasing, the indie he’s run with co-founder Jon Gerrans for 22 years, isn’t (quite) as gay as you think.

A film “first has to be something really good that’s going to appeal to critics and cineastes — the gay content is secondary,” says Hu, whose producing debut — Gregg Araki’s nihilistic gay dramedy “The Living End” — played Berlin in 1992. “But we’ve built a good reputation by having quality gay and lesbian films, and I think that’s why ours stand out the most.”

Another reason for this reputation is that nine of Strand’s 10 top-grossing films (including “Edge of Seventeen,” “Wild Reeds” and “Party Monster”) focus on gay themes or have prominent gay characters. Yet the company has many LGBT-free award winners (such as the upcoming Cannes Palme d’Or honoree “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”) which show Hu has ambitions extend beyond the gay film niche.

It’s a goal that’s also pragmatic. “Twenty years ago, the gay community really wanted to see images of themselves onscreen because there was so little of that available,” Hu says. “There’s so much gay visibility now in television and other media that I don’t think there’s the same need for affirmation — or plunking down 15 bucks to go to an art complex when they can relax at home.”

Filling a 12- to 14-film-per-year theatrical release slate with acquisitions, one or two service deals, plus four to six additional homevideo titles is no easy task, especially with so many better-funded competitors than when Hu started. In an annual two-week migration that he’s made for two decades, Hu just flew from California to Sundance and back, then to and from the Rotterdam fest, then took a round trip between his Culver City office and weekend San Francisco home before hitting Berlin.

“He gets his sleep on planes,” laughs Gerrans.

Strand Releasing also just picked up U.S. rights to Tom Tykwer’s love-triangle drama “Three.” The Berlin-set romantic drama, which premiered last year in Venice, centers on a heterosexual married couple forced to deal with an awkward predicament when they both fall in love with the same man. It’s screening at the Berlinale as part of the German Cinema — Lola@Berlin market section.

The pair also recently exec produced their first film since 2000’s “Psycho Beach Party,” the upcoming dark Hollywood comedy “(818)” from “Psycho Beach” director Robert Lee King.

Strand has only nine employees handling theatrical acquisitions, DVD sales and servicing for Internet, VOD and various forms of new media (including an output deal with Warner Digital). This low overhead and an eye toward the future — along with good taste, tireless work and champions like Panorama director Wieland Speck, who selected Hu to lead the Teddy Awards jury — has helped Hu’s company survive three recessions.

“Marcus’ dedication to queer culture and his perseverance in a difficult marketplace are an inspiration to everyone working in the field,” Speck says.

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