Newman, Guirgis lead unit, will head to Cannes for acquisitions

MPI Media Group is launching MPI Pictures, a theatrical distribution division that has lined up seven films for release this year and next.

MPI Pictures, which will specialize in the release of foreign-language, arthouse, high-end genre and American independent films, will be overseen by Greg Newman, exec VP of MPI Media Group. Company will be led by Marie Therese Guirgis, the head of theatrical distribution who will join Newman at Cannes, where the duo will be eager to buy.

The initial slate features Guillaume Canet’s French hit “Little White Lies,” starring Oscar winners Jean Dujardin and Marion Cotillard; Mathieu Demy’s “Americano,” which stars Salma Hayek; and Eric Lartigau’s thriller “The Big Picture,” starring Romain Duris and Catherine Deneuve. Other pics include “Fightville,” which opened last Friday, and the Jason Ritter-Rebecca Hall vehicle “Bag of Hammers,” which will be released May 11. Victoria Mahoney’s “Yelling to the Sky” and Maarten Treurniet’s “The Heineken Kidnapping” are skedded for release in the first quarter of 2013.

Distribution exec Emily Woodburne and marketing exec Dan Goldberg have been hired to help oversee the initial slate.

“As we’ve been acquiring new films, we started discussing bringing everything inhouse and handling our own distribution division, as we wanted to build from within,” Guirgis told Variety. “We’re looking for American and more accessible, commercial foreign-language films, as well as documentaries. MPI has no corporate mandate because it’s a family-owned business,” she added.

“The audience for commercial foreign language and independent films remains a flourishing niche in the marketplace,” Newman said. “With the launch of our theatrical division we have the ability not only to release completed feature films that we acquire but also to release our own original productions. The commercial appeal of all our films reaches across all distribution platforms from theaters to VOD, digital, DVD and beyond. MPI Pictures allows us to expand our reach in the marketplace with integrated inhouse marketing, publicity and distribution in all media.”

“We’ll be putting considerable P&A resources behind ‘Little White Lies,’ and for ‘Fightville,’ we did a grassroots marketing campaign instead of spending on theatrical. The resources are there, and we’ll decide how to allocate them depending on the movie,” said Guirgis, who has worked at the company in various capacities for the last five years.

MPI Media Group has been around for several decades and is primarily known as a home video distributor with a 2,000-film library.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more