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Road trip to plexes

Open Road launches inaugural release 'Killer Elite' Friday

Bizzers were wary when AMC Theaters and Regal Entertainment jointly founded distribber Open Road Films earlier this year, seeing it as a form of retaliation to shrinking theatrical windows — or at very least, an opportunity for the companies to play favorites among themselves.

But Open Road launches inaugural release “Killer Elite” Friday at plenty of venues outside AMC and Regal multiplexes, lending credence to Open Road’s stated mission of filling gaps in the marketplace.

The breakdown of the film’s approximately 2,750 locations looks identical to any similar midsized release.

Open Road distribution prexy Elliot Slutzky said it was essentialtial that the film play as widely as possible to the other major theater chains, including Rave Cinemas, Carmike and Cinemark. Rave plans to screen “Killer Elite” at virtually all of the circuit’s 61 U.S. multiplexes.

“I think when (exhibitors) found out that we would be allocating equally, they all cooperated,” Slutzky told Variety. “It was very important for us to be fair and pick the best theaters.”

Rave VP of marketing Jeremy Devine said “the fact that Open Road is owned by Regal and AMC never entered the equation.”

Though AMC and Regal are Open Road’s parents, the companies maintain separate revenue streams. The exhibs won’t profit directly from Open Road’s releases beyond their usual share of the box office.

“We were looking at them as we would any other distributor,” said Devine, who added that exhibs need fresh titles during the slow early fall B.O. period. “It’s essential that we have a steady supply of product throughout the year.”

AMC and Regal unveiled Open Road in March as a distrib that focuses on pics with midsized budgets and commercial prospects, joining an increasingly crowded space that includes newer distribs FilmDistrict, Relativity and CBS Films as well as Lionsgate and Summit. At Open Road’s helm is former Lionsgate and Weinstein Co. exec Tom Ortenberg, who as CEO brought on board Slutzky, as well as Jason Cassidy as marketing chief and Liz Biber, exec veep of publicity.

“We are very excited about the opening of Open Road’s first movie,” said Ortenberg, who expressed his gratitude to Omnilab Media, director Gary McKendry and the cast and crew of “Killer Elite.”

Company caught some flak from studio execs, who suggested that Open Road titles could receive preferential treatment from exhibs, not just AMC or Regal. But Regal CEO Amy Miles insists that won’t happen.

“With respect to showtimes and playdates, we would expect to treat Open Road as we would any other independent distributor,” Miles said. “As an equity owner we maintain both the risk and reward of ownership, but we don’t take any extra cut.”

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