Indie distrib banks on Laemmle name

Theater chain teams with Zeller for deal

Indie movies that can’t find a theatrical home may now have an alternative.

Laemmle Theaters president Greg Laemmle and GS Entertainment Marketing Group prexy Steven Zeller have teamed up to form L.A.-based theatrical distributor Laemmle/Zeller Films.

New “virtual” distribution company — which will incur no new overhead or personnel costs — will use Laemmle’s inhouse personnel to book theaters, ship prints and materials and handle box office collections and booking for pics. GS Entertainment’s staff will be responsible for all marketing aspects on pics, including advertising, publicity and promotions.

New company will have its first theatrical release in April at Laemmle Theaters with Mike Wranovics’ baseball-themed docu-comedy “Up for Grabs,” which won the 2004 audience award at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

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Shingle is in negotiations to handle two other films and intends to release four to eight pics per year.

New company will selectively acquire pics without a theatrical home, but the idea is to handle pics directly and distribute them either through Laemmle or other theaters, depending on the appeal of the pic.

Box office coin from the distributor will go back into a revolving P&A fund for future releases and to cover other costs and fees in releasing pics as well as a more generous B.O. share for producers and filmmakers after pics are released.

In some cases distrib will pay an advance against a release but will not pay an acquisitions fee.

Company is talking to sales agents and video distributors to handle international sales and domestic homevideo distribution on titles it releases.

“Worthwhile films were judged too small by the larger companies, and at the same time smaller companies were not equipped to fully capitalize on these films’ potential in the marketplace,” said Zeller and Laemmle. “Additionally, there always seems to be an abundance of terrific films at film festivals that never get theatrically released. Our new company will be simultaneously nimble and yet responsible, finding and shepherding what we hope are wonderful movies that deserve to be seen by audiences in movie theaters.”