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Lions Gate opens ‘Urbania’ after Unapix’s problems

Move comes just two weeks before Sept. 15 release

In a move worthy of a white knight, Lions Gate Films has picked up all U.S. rights to Jon Shear’s “Urbania” as intended distrib Unapix Films Theatrical faces cash flow problems that have forced the company to back away from the acquisition just two weeks before its Sept. 15 release.

“Urbania,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was adapted by Daniel Reitz from his own play “Urban Folk Tales” about a gay man’s search for redemption and love. The film, which stars Dan Futterman and Josh Hamilton, has won a number of festival awards, including the grand jury award for narrative feature at last month’s L.A. Outfest and grand prize at the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Unapix Films acquired the film in March and has been working on the film’s marketing and publicity campaign throughout the summer. Just last week, however, Unapix Entertainment chairman Herbert Pearlman informed Unapix Films topper Richard Abramowitz that the company would not have the funds to put the film into release.

Unapix Films, the theatrical arm of Unapix Entertainment that was just launched in March, has released one film to date: “Grass,” a documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson about the U.S. drug policy on marijuana.

Abramowitz said he has been told that the cash flow problems are temporary. “I’m delighted that Lions Gate will handle the film,” he said. “The film’s release was my highest concern.”

Said Lions Gate Releasing co-prexy Tom Ortenberg, “It would have been a shame if ‘Urbania’ went unreleased. People who had worked on this film for a long time would go undeservedly punished. We were always interested in the movie, but we faced a very crowded release slate.”

Lions Gate will release the film in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego on Sept. 15 and will expand from there into the top 25 markets and possibly beyond.

“I was very excited that there was a new player on the independent film scene, and I’m heartbroken that after all the work they put into this release, they won’t be able to enjoy the fruit,” said J. Todd Harris, who produced the film with Shear and Stephanie Golden. “Robert (Abramowitz) has gone out of his way to see that the film succeeds, (but) I’m incredibly relieved that a company as experienced and prominent as Lions Gate has been able to step in at the last minute.”

UTA and Harris repped the filmmakers in the deal.

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