‘Dogma’ goes to Lions Gate

'Controversy equals visibility,' Urman sez

NEW YORK — Lions Gate Films has announced its acquisition of Kevin Smith’s religious comedy “Dogma” from Miramax co-heads Harvey and Bob Weinstein.

Miramax Intl., which pre-sold “Dogma” overseas, will remain on board as the foreign distrib.

Five months ago, the Weinsteins acquired the film from their own company for just north of $2 million in an attempt to shield parent Disney from potential controversy surrounding the pic, which spoofs and questions many tenets of Christianity.

Lions Gate Releasing prexies Mark Urman and Tom Ortenberg were determined to acquire the ensemble comedy about two fallen angels, played by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, after its world preem this year at the Cannes Film Festival.

The company, which scored two Oscars last year with “Gods and Monsters” and “Affliction,” has a number of hot-button-pressing films on its upcoming slate, including its just-completed production of Mary Harron’s “American Psycho” and Errol Morris’ documentary about a Holocaust denier, “Dr. Death.”

“Films that are good enough to withstand the controversy and scrutiny can often benefit,” Urman told Daily Variety. “Controversy equals visibility.”

For several months now, Lions Gate has been the only company in the running for “Dogma”; the Lions Gate logo has run on the film’s trailer for several days. The Weinsteins also have a long history with Lions Gate Films prexy Jeff Sackman: CFP, an earlier incarnation of Lion Gate, was the Canadian distributor for Miramax Films.

“Dogma,” which has been trimmed by 10 minutes for its late-October wide release, will be among four films Lions Gate will platform at the Toronto Film Fest, which begins today.