Alliance, Artisan pact

Companies gain enhanced distrib capabilitites

CANNES — Artisan Entertainment and Alliance Communications have forged a wide-ranging co-production and distribution partnership.

The arrangement gives Alliance access to Artisan’s distribution capability in the U.S., and enables Artisan to take advantage of Alliance’s outlets in Canada and the U.K.

The partnership kicks off immediately, with Alliance inking a three-year output deal for Canadian rights to all of Artisan’s product.

The exact nature of the U.K. deal is still under discussion. According to sources, it may involve Artisan taking an equity stake in the U.K. subsidiary of Alliance Releasing, Alliance’s theatrical distribution operation.

Officially, the two companies say that they intend to “distribute pictures in other markets as well.”

The partners also are talking about co-producing a number of titles. Alliance could distribute the pics in Canada and U.K., and Artisan could distribute in U.S.

Both companies make a wide range of films, from small, director-driven pics to moderately budgeted films. Both sorts of pictures would be up for consideration as possible co-productions.

Patrick Wachsberger’s Summit Entertainment, which has an alliance of its own with Artisan, would handle international sales on any co-produced pics with Alliance’s foreign sales division, Alliance Pictures Intl.

According to Artisan co-president Amir Malin, there is a good “fit” between two heavyweight indies such as Artisan and Alliance. “There’s an understanding between us, and we complement each other in many areas,” he said.

Malin says that Artisan was ready to greenlight three or four new, bigger-budget pictures in the vein of Roman Polanski’s “The Ninth Gate,” starring Johnny Depp. Alliance, too, has been beefing up its slate. Its forthcoming pics include the $20 million-plus “Existenz,” directed by David Cronenberg; and the Ralph Fiennes starrer “Sunshine,” directed by Istvan Szabo.

Under the exclusive Canadian distribution deal, Alliance Releasing will handle all of Artisan’s current and future pictures across all media for three years, for a minimum guarantee based on a percentage of the budget.

The deal will see Alliance release 12 pics a year theatrically and up to 24 on video.

The first pic to be released will be Peter O’Fallon’s “Suicide Kings,” starring Christopher Walken.