Mike Fleming

The fate of Apparition as a prestige picture distributor is uncertain following the exit of Bob Berney, and once again, indie filmmakers wait for somebody to step up with some good news for a change. How about singer Dave Matthews, who is tuning up his Art Takes Over Pictures banner to step it up as a financier/distributor of indie films? DaveCEO Temple Fennell announced that the New York-based company will get into the funding game on its own pictures, and provide finishing funds for others, to round out a slate of four to six films per year. The films will be released theatrically through Independent Distribution Partners, a distribution company started by Samuel Goldwyn Films. ATO became a partner in IDP last January.  ATO has also pacted with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment to service ancillary distribution on DVD, VOD and digital downloads. There is no pay TV deal, though Goldwyn has one with EPIX.

Matthews cofounded ATO in 2002 with Coran Capshaw, whose Red Lights Management reps The Dave Matthews Band. ATO has so far produced such films as the Sam Rockwell-starrer Choke, which got distributed by Fox Searchlight, and Savage Grace. The first ATO film to go through the new Goldwyn arrangement will be Mao’s Last Dancer. The company has staffed up with four vets—Fennell, Johnathan Dorfman, Peter Newman and Greg Johnson. The latter two have been producers on such indie films as Smoke and The Squid and the Whale, and they continue a long campaign to mount a film about 60s singer Janis Joplin.

The ATO team will arrive at Cannes later this week, hoping to start on an acquisitions mix that will include a small number of completed films, and some that ATO can join at the financing stage or provide the finishing funds to round out the financing puzzle. ATO’s capital comes from several high net worth individuals and a couple of institutional entities, per ATO CEO Fennell.