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Brit indies will stick to DVD plans

Pathe, Momentum, Optimum stand by screeners

LONDON — The U.K.’s indie distributors are going ahead with their existing plans to send out videos and DVDs in support of their BAFTA award campaigns.

Distribs such as Pathe, Momentum and Optimum have signaled that they will not give up their right to send out screeners to BAFTA voters.

These companies own the U.K. rights to movies including “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” “In the Cut,” “Lost in Translation,” “Spirited Away,” “American Splendor” and “Elephant.”

The major Hollywood studios have agreed to ban the mailing of screeners to AMPAS voters. Their British arms have indicated that this policy will extend to BAFTA as well.

There are thought to be several hundred BAFTA members who also belong to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. Indeed, BAFTA has 1,100 members resident in the U.S., but it’s unclear whether the U.K. indies are intending to include them in their screener mail-out.

Pathe U.K. managing director Francois Ivernel commented, “Like most people in the independent film world, I was shocked by the blockbuster-centric view that led to the ban of screeners by the MPAA.

“It is a unilateral decision that is delivered late in the day for those structuring campaigns to promote awareness of independent films. It is the quality films that are distributed on limited theatrical release that will be most disadvantaged. This decision is a blow to the diversity and creativity of independent cinema around the world.”

Britain’s leading indie distrib, however, will not be sending out videos and DVDs. Entertainment Film Distributors, which releases pics from New Line, among others, has always operated its own unilateral no-screener policy due to concerns about piracy.

Will Clarke of Optimum Releasing said he has never previously sent out screeners but may do so this year. He will decide based on the best interests of his movies, regardless of the MPAA ban.

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