In Italy, just when the going for specialty pics is getting tougher, an indie shingle is getting going, and launching a gay cinema label to boot.

The birth of three-month-old Atlantide Entertainment marks two absolute novelties for the Italian market: Atlantide will theatrically distribute pics in original language, without dubbing; a first, since to date even arthouse titles have always been dubbed in Italy.

Also, Atlantide has started a separate unit, called Queer Frame, dedicated to gay and lesbian art titles, a bold move in a land where this type of product has so far struggled to find outlets.

Based in Turin, which is Italy’s edgy movie mecca thanks to the Turin Film Festival and also the Turin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Atlantide is now looking to occupy a tiny but profitable niche in the insidious Italo distribution market.

Company’s slate comprises recent works by known auteurs, such as Gus Van Sant, Michel Gondry and Mika Kaurismaki, which are part of their generalist slate, but also more esoteric fare like gay zombie pic “L.A. Zombie” by Canadian helmer/provocateur Bruce LaBruce, with which Atlantide is launching Queer Frame.

“L.A. Zombie,” starring French male porn star Francois Sagat as schizophrenic who thinks he’s a zombie, searching for dead bodies to have sex with in L.A. streets, will unspool in the Locarno competish next month.

Unlike Blighty, where Peccadillo Pictures has long been distributing gay movies, or Gaul, where they are handled by the Optimale label, gay-themed pics have not really had a specific outlet before in Italy.

“It’s been a scarcely represented market segment here, because distributors have been unwilling to (take a) risk on these titles,” says Atlantide head of distribution Cosimo Santoro.

And seeking to adopt a new media business model that could set them apart from ailing specialty outfits around the planet, Queer Frame in September plans to launch a gay-themed Web TV site from the Venice Film Fest, where it is the main sponsor of the Lido’s Queer Lion nod.