HBO draws a Fine Line

Corporate sibling gets inside track on distrib'n

CANNES — HBO, which is becoming much more active in producing and acquiring feature films, will team with Fine Line Features in an overall distribution pact. Time Warner sister company will thus become the official distributor of all titles HBO chooses to release theatrically in the U.S.

This follows their initial teaming on HBO Films’ “American Splendor.”

While neither company was ready to confirm details Sunday, final points in the agreement were close to being ironed out. The expanded pact is expected to kickoff with HBO’s Cannes competition entry “Elephant,” directed by Gus Van Sant, which premiered in Cannes Sunday.

HBO Films prexy Colin Callender recently said he feels the market for more idiosyncratic pix like “Splendor” and “Elephant” could be enhanced with theatrical runs before HBO broadcast, as the company did last year with Newmarket’s domestic release of “Real Women Have Curves.”

Callender also said Fine Line’s position within the corporate family gave the distrib the inside track on future HBO product.

Deal is an unusual example of corporate synergy within the Time Warner family. It also lifts the longstanding question mark over the future direction of Fine Line Features in terms of production and acquisitions.

Mark Ordesky, exec VP and COO of New Line, retains operational control over that division and will continue his mandate to nurture such filmmakers as Jonathan Glazer, Lars von Trier, Alexander Payne and Atom Egoyan among others. After handling von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” in the U.S., Fine Line has first negotiation terms with Trust Film Sales on the director’s “Dogville,” premiering today.

HBO has an aggressive presence at Cannes this year, unveiling Vanessa Redgrave/Angelina Jolie pic “The Fever” and Sidney Lumet’s “Strip Search,” and acquiring Argentine helmer Lucrecia Martel’s “The Holy Girl” from Pedro and Augustin Almodovar’s El Deseo stable.

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