ThinkFilm hops aboard ‘Express’

Doc pulls in at distrib's station

NEW YORK — Continuing to nourish its appetite for eclectic docu features, ThinkFilm has acquired U.S. rights to “Festival Express,” a chronicle of the Canadian rock n’ roll happening of 1970 that starred music legends Janis Joplin, the Band and the Grateful Dead.

Premiered at the Toronto fest last fall, the pic chronicles the summer whistle-stop tour in which influential rockers of the time traveled westward from Toronto to Calgary to Winnipeg in a string of specially outfitted Canadian National Railway cars, staging a mega-concert at each stop. Event was conceived as the Canadian answer to Woodstock.

Directed by Bob Smeaton, the music doc is a HanWay Films, Gavin Poolman, John Trapman presentation of an Apollo Films production. Poolman and Trapman produced, with Ann Carli, Garth Douglas and James Cunningham serving as exec producers.

Starting with a bang

“We expect 2004 to be a really exciting year for us, and I couldn’t be happier than to begin it with this announcement,” said ThinkFilm president and CEO Jeff Sackman. ” ‘Festival Express’ has so much potential in so many ways for so many generations. I think that marketing and distributing it will be a great ride for our team.”

“Seeing this film is like discovering buried treasure,” head of distribution Mark Urman added. “There are moments in it that are absolutely unforgettable, and the whole film does more to elevate one’s mood than most controlled substances!”

ThinkFilm is planning a 2004 release.

Sackman and senior VP of acquisitions and business affairs Randy Manis negotiated the deal with London-based HanWay.

Big appetite

After scoring big last year with “Spellbound,” ThinkFilm has become a voracious acquisitions force for fest-pedigree nonfiction features.

The company released last year’s Sundance discovery “Bus 174” in the fall and is readying the release of Toronto hits “The Agronomist” by Jonathan Demme and “The Story of the Weeping Camel.”

ThinkFilm recently closed an acquisition deal on British multihyphenate Stephen Fry’s “Bright Young Things,” adapted from Evelyn Waugh.

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