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Fine Line Features

HBO deal, prod'n puts pics back in pipeline

After Mark Ordesky’s juggernaut success with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy for New Line, Fine Line appeared both inert and lacking identity.

That perception wasn’t helped by a lack of any releases over the last 12 months, but that is in large part due to the company’s recent transition.

Under Ordesky, company has morphed from an acquisitions-based company to one focused on developing its own projects with a mandate to pursue filmmakers like Jonathan Glazer, Lars von Trier, Alexander Payne and Atom Egoyan, as evidenced in upcoming Glazer pic “Birth,” to be released by New Line.

On the production front, shingle is readying “M’Lady,” to be produced and directed by Eriq La Salle, and “I Was Amelia Earhart,” a blend of history and fiction that looks at the life of the famed aviator. French helmer Jean-Jacques Beineix will direct.

Also in development is an adaptation of Umberto Eco’s novel “Foucault’s Pendulum,” and a remake of George Cukor’s “The Women,” to be written and directed by “Murphy Brown” creator Diane English, with Annette Bening and Helen Hunt in discussions to star.

With its high-profile acquisition at Sundance of top prize winner “American Splendor,” produced by HBO and released Aug. 15, company also reestablished its acquisition muscle.

An important key to Fine Line’s future is the inking of a distribution partnership with HBO Films, which could secure a steady stream of new product.

Deal kicks off with the release of Gus Van Sant’s Palme d’Or winner, “Elephant,” on Oct. 24 (“American Splendor” acquisition predated the deal).

Exec ranks: Mark Ordesky, president; Steven Friedlander, exec VP, distribution; Marian Koltai-Levine, exec VP, marketing; Guy Stodel, senior VP, acquisitions and production; Ileen Maisel, senior VP, European production & acquisitions

First looks: None

Recent pickups: “American Splendor” (Sundance), “Elephant” (Cannes)

Year at B.O.: Top (only) grosser: “Invincible” ($81,954)

Kudo watch: Expect major campaigns for “Splendor,” given its strong performance at Sundance and Cannes, and for its Palme d’Or winner “Elephant.”