Revolution adds unit to buy indie pix

'Witch's' Hegeman to run arm from Gotham

Revolution Studios is creating an acquisitions arm, headed by John Hegeman, the marketer behind such indie hits as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Pi.”

Hegeman has spent the past two years running Distant Corners, a production company/Web site that specialized in genre productions for sci-fi, horror and fantasy. The company’s Web portion has withered in the generally hostile environment for online entertainment, leaving Hegeman to finish “The Tooth Fairy,” a horror pic he has been producing with Blue Star Pictures for Revolution that is scheduled for a fall release. Revolution’s majority owner, Joe Roth, was an investor in Distant Corners, which will be put on a back burner.

Remaining in New York, Hegeman will report to Revolution partners Tom Sherak and Todd Garner as he seeks to acquire independent films for the company. In keeping with Revolution policy, he will not have a title.

‘Natural choice’

“John’s ability to recognize the commercial potential in material is unequaled in the industry, and his background in the indie community makes him a natural choice for our acquisitions department,” said Garner.

Hegeman received a great deal of notoriety while at Artisan Entertainment for his imaginative marketing, online and off, for “Blair Witch,” which grossed $141 million, and “Pi,” among other projects. While there he was also heavily involved in acquisition and development decisions.

“John has been involved in all areas of the business, and we will benefit greatly from his expertise. We welcome him to the Revolution Studios family,” said Sherak.

The creation of an acquisitions arm is a significant step for Revolution. Created less than two years ago after Roth left the Disney Studios chairmanship, the company secured output deals with Sony, Fox, Starz Encore and several overseas distribs that essentially guaranteed its costs would be covered on most films before they had even hit theaters. Among Revolution’s first five films are “Black Hawk Down,” which has crested $108 million in domestic box office and picked up Oscars for film editing and sound Sunday night, and “America’s Sweethearts,” which grossed $94 million.

The output deals cover only 36 pictures over a six-year period, however, so creation of an acquisition department trying to build long-term relationships with indie filmmakers implies that this may be a long-running revolution. Roth, long rumored a successor to Sony chairman John Calley when he retires, was on vacation with his family and unavailable for comment.

‘A great initiative’

“I’m assuming there’s a long-term commitment; otherwise, there would be no reason to be involved in it,” Hegeman said. “I think it’s a great initiative to strengthen relationships with the indie community and talent.”

Hegeman’s first priority will be to hire a Los Angeles-based acquisitions executive who will work under him. Then he plans to spend some time reconnoitering the indie landscape to see what’s available.

Hegeman worked at Artisan between 1997 and 2000. Previously, he was at Metromedia Entertainment Group as exec VP of worldwide marketing, overseeing “Ulee’s Gold.” In 1994, he joined MGM/UA as senior veepee, marketing and distribution. While there, he worked on titles including “GoldenEye,” “Stargate,” “Species” and “Leaving Las Vegas.”

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