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Cinema Libre, Heavy Metal planning DVDs

Indie film and video distrib Cinema Libre Studio has partnered with Heavy Metal magazine to create a series of movies exclusively for DVD that are geared toward the mag’s target audience.

Cinema Libre founder Philippe Diaz, exec producer of the animated sequel “Heavy Metal 2000,” said the new movies will be live-action stories in the horror, sci-fi, action and urban genres targeted to young males. Budgets on the productions to be shot in the U.S. and Canada will be $500,000-$1 million each.

With three or four scripts already developed and some crew already in mind, Diaz expects to begin production this summer, with the first of about seven releases in the first year planned for October or November, building to monthly releases within a couple of years. Financing will come from the same sources backing Cinema Libre’s 10 annual theatrical releases and 20 video titles. About 10% of the titles in the Heavy Metal franchise may be acquisitions, which Cinema Libre will also handle, along with distribution, all in consultation with Heavy Metal.

Some of the titles will also be offered to overseas theatrical markets as well as TV.

Though the movies will not feature the stylized animation that drew a cult following to the original “Heavy Metal” movie in 1981 or the 2000 sequel, Diaz said heavy metal and rock music, as well as rap and other genres, will be an essential component of the new films.

Diaz and Heavy Metal magazine owner-editor Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, plan to exploit their new partnership to the fullest, including merchandising opportunities and cross-promotion in the magazine and Web sites of the movies and soundtracks. Eastman says he plans to continue to develop additional Heavy Metal animated films and TV programs.

The companies are hoping to attract big retailers like Wal-Mart by creating PG-rated versions of the primarily R-rated fare with two sets of packaging so family retail outlets can choose the one they feel is best suited to their customers.

Eastman bought Heavy Metal in 1991 and estimates annual readership at about 3.5 million worldwide. He collaborated with Columbia/TriStar Home Video for the 1996 videocassette release of the original “Heavy Metal” movie, which sold more than 2 million copies. Columbia also released the 2000 sequel in the U.S.

L.A.-based Cinema Libre’s highest-profile releases have docs such as producer Robert Greenwald’s “Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War,” “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism,” “Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election,” “Unconstitutional,” and David O. Russell’s “Soldier’s Pay.” Company is planning upcoming narrative pics “Conventioneers,” helmed by Mora Stephens, and Eric Byler’s “Tre.”

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