Triton distribbery folds

The theatrical distribution company that released “A Brief History of Time” has run out of time. Triton Pictures issued a statement Tuesday confirming that it “will wind down its theatrical distribution operation at the end of the year.”

Formed in 1990, Triton emphasized that it has acquired a library of 20 movies , which it will continue to manage into 1994.

Company founders Jonathan Dana and Jeff Ivers will stay aboard at Triton as it handles such titles as “A Brief History of Time,” the Jeff Bridges starrer “American Heart,””The Hairdresser’s Husband” and “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” in ancillary markets.

In a joint statement to Daily Variety, Dana and Ivers said: “We are very proud of what we have accomplished at Triton. Our mission was to build a company with a personality and one that would represent quality in the independent film sector. Hopefully our record stands for itself in these areas. Nonetheless, the realities of today’s marketplace require a level of resources greater than we currently have available to us.”

The demise of Triton comes 11 months after Kadokawa Distribution Inc. pulled out as an equity partner in the company. The Japan-based investor left Triton after a much-publicized and bitter skirmish between brothers Haruki Kadokawa and Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, who were divided over the diversification of their family publishing and movie empire (Daily Variety, Jan. 7).

Without an equity investor over the last year, Triton was unable to match free-spending Miramax Films, deep-pocketed Sony Pictures Classics, aggressive Fine Line Features, an expanding Samuel Goldwyn Co. and interloper October Films for showcase indie product.

Of late, Triton managed to stay in the theatrical distribution business through service deals for such pix as “American Heart,””Twist,””In the Soup” and “Twenty Bucks,” but was shackled by limited upside potential because service deals are generally far less profitable than acquisitions.

Sources at the company indicated that partners Dana and Ivers briefly considered lowering the quality of Triton product as a means to fill the pipeline but opted instead to withdraw from the domestic theatrical derby.

The Triton downsize is significant because it removes another competitor from the ranks of specialized theatrical distributors. In addition, it takes an important niche player out of the theatrical market; Triton had distinguished itself with such daring documentary releases as “A Brief History of Time” and “Hearts of Darkness”– an area of film often ignored by U.S. independents.

When Triton was formed in February 1990, it looked to be a significant challenger to the industry stalwarts in the theatrical distribution business. In short order, it acquired five of the top titles in the specialized movie arena: “Hearts of Darkness,””Toto the Hero,” the sleeper hit “The Hairdresser’s Husband ,””Mindwalk” and “A Brief History of Time.”

However, Triton stalled when the rift between the Kadokawa brothers limited the flow of capital and forced distribution operations into a holding pattern.

Triton is completing a multi-city theatrical release of “Twenty Bucks,” while “Twist,””A Brief History of Time,””Mindwalk” and “American Heart” are also still active in the theatrical marketplace on a limited basis. It is expected that all distributor obligations will be met before theatrical distribution operations are disbanded.

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