Tony Kirkhope

British indie distrib-exhib Tony Kirkhope, owner of Metro Pictures, died of a heart attack May 29. He was 49.

The colorful, showman-like Kirkhope learned the business from the ground up after joining the Other Cinema, a left-wing London film collective, in 1972.

When the group’s theater closed, Kirkhope managed the distribution of its considerable library of foreign-language and radical cinema, including works by Gillo Pontecorvo, Joris Ivens, Chantal Akerman, Ousmane Sembene, Chris Marker and Steve Dwoskin.

In 1985, he opened the two-screen Metro Cinema in London’s West End, programming a mixture of cinematheque-like film weeks, new movies, documentaries and ethnic events. After renaming the Other Cinema library Metro Pictures, he continued to acquire new movies as a distributor.

In 1991, Kirkhope formed the joint venture Metro Tartan with Hamish McAlpine’s Tartan Video, releasing higher-profile titles like “Man Bites Dog,” “Strawberry and Chocolate,” “La Haine,” and movies by Spanish directors Pedro Almodovar and Bigas Luna.

Kirkhope’s longtime interest in Latino cinema also manifested itself in the London Latin American Film Festival, which he founded in 1989 with his companion, Eva Tarr. Based at the Metro Cinema, it immediately became a successful annual event.

Kirkhope is survived by Tarr, whom he married in 1994.

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