MGM specialty division United Artists made a major step last week toward defining the kind of company it wants to be: As of Sept. 1, Bingham Ray will be UA’s president and the group will be based in New York.
Although UA’s relocation will certainly shore up Gotham’s status as the center of the indie universe, Ray’s hiring is generally viewed with pleasure by indie execs on both coasts.
Technically, his return to the industry began last fall, when he became the head of features at commercial and musicvideo production company Crossroads Films. However, Ray has maintained an abnormally low profile ever since October Films was folded into USA Films without Ray more than two years ago.
The new UA chief is known as an outspoken champion of independent filmmakers like David Lynch, Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, John Dahl, Victor Nunez and Robert Duvall. His appointment also has been strongly welcomed in London, where he has long-standing relationships with a British filmmakers such as Mike Leigh, Michael Winterbottom and Shane Meadows.
However, don’t look for UA to become October Films Redux. Balancing Ray’s passion for art films is MGM’s desire to continue using UA as a profitable outlet for lower-budget titles — including genre fare.