Belladonna, Matson form partnership

New York distrib plans Latam pic blitz

BUENOS AIRES — Belladonna Productions and Matson Films have partnered to acquire Latin American films for U.S. distribution, a program they plan to replicate for other regions.

The New York companies will distribute six pics via arthouse theaters in 20 U.S. cities in a series format designed to simulate a yearlong film festival. The New World Cinema Series (NWCS), as it is known, will start in January, with marketing beginning in October or November.

A film will be released every two months, supported by ad blitzes and events for audiences like meetings with directors. The partners will take U.S. rights for the films and seek DVD and TV distribution.

“The voices of independent films are getting lost” in the U.S. “so making theatrical distribution an event is important to attract audiences” in the face of competition from downloading and Netflix, Richard Matson of Matson Films told Variety.

“It makes going to the movies a unique experience,” said Matson, a specialist in event-based distribution and web-based marketing.

Matson used the approach for “Towncraft,” a 2007 docu he directed and produced about the underground rock scene of the late ’80s in Little Rock. The distrib staged a concert for auds on opening night.

It also built a website with more than 100 hours of new video and a wiki design that allows auds to contribute photos, stories and videos on music scenes in the U.S. More than 2,500 stories have been contributed, helping kick up buzz for the film.

Matson and Belladonna will finance the series largely through unidentified sponsors that want to associate their brands with the movement.

They did not disclose the budget for the venture.

“We see a great opportunity for interesting cinema to enter the U.S. market via branded releasing,” Belladonna’s Rene Bastian said in a statement. “We have learned from our experience in commercials that there is an appetite among brand clients to be associated with quality films, beyond breaking them up with 30-second commercials.”

On average, fewer than 10 Latin American films are distributed each year in the U.S., with theatrical runs limited to few cities.

Buenos Aires-based Streiffschuss Films will complete a pre-selection process of titles by August, said Tomi Streiff of Streiffschuss. They are looking at completed films, including those that may already have been released in the region but not in the U.S.

The aim is “to give exposure to the American audience of not just one Latin American voice but a variety,” said Streiffschuss’ Jane Hallisey.

Matson said the plan is create a similar series for Asian or European films to distribute in the U.S. in 2010.

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