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Texan steps up film ties by self-marketing pic

Jim McIngvale, the self-proclaimed discount furniture king of Texas, is due to intensify his stake in the movie business Thursday, when he launches a $ 6 million-to-$ 7 million prints-and-advertising campaign for the Chuck Norris-starrer “Sidekicks.”

McIngvale, the Houston-based entrepreneur and nascent Hollywood producer, has tapped Vision Intl. and Triumph Releasing to handle the domestic release of “Sidekicks.”

The promoter’s decision to market his own movie pushes his investment in “Sidekicks” over the $ 14 million mark. McIngvale bankrolled the $ 8 million-to- $ 10 million “Sidekicks” production entirely with his own money.

“We’re taking a swing at the fences and hoping to knock the cover off the ball,” McIngvale said. “If we do, we do. If we don’t, it’s only money.”

McIngvale’s decision to back “Sidekicks” out on his own bankroll was borne from necessity — negotiations with New Line Cinema alone lasted from September through January. He said the studios and independents that looked at the movie wouldn’t let him have enough say in the marketing and advertising to suit him.

“Also, they wanted to pay me a flat fee with no upside potential,” McIngvale said. “Heck, if I wanted to get a 4% to 6% return, I could’ve kept my money in CDs.”

Now, McIngvale is having a Texas-size say in how “Sidekicks” is promoted.

Thursday, “Sidekicks” will premiere simultaneously on all eight screens of Cineplex Odeon’s Sharpstown Theatre in the Houston area.

And such “Sidekicks” stars as Norris, Beau Bridges, Jonathan Brandis and Mako are flying in to a parking lot party, which McIngvale hopes will lure 20,000 people to the premiere.

An added kick to the campaign is being given by an eight-minute trailer being distributed to about 2,000 martial arts schools in Texas and California.

The marketing blitz is part of his basic business belief, which McIngvale said works for furniture and ought to work in movies: “Go back to square one and promote.”

So far, Vision and Triumph have crafted a domestic release pattern that calls for the movie to open on 65 screens in Dallas and Houston, followed by bookings on 70 screens in Los Angeles. McIngvale said he hopes the film will reach 1,100 screens by the end of the month.

Vision, the international sales agent for “Sidekicks,” will use Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Triumph Releasing arm for the domestic release. Triumph has previously handled domestic theatrical distribution of such Vision titles as “Wild Orchid,””Wild Orchid II,””Shadow of the Wolf” and “Gate II.”

“We’re basically aiding and abetting (McIngvale’s) viewpoint on marketing the picture,” said Vision chairman and chief executive officer Mark Damon. “We’re partners on this one.”

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