DreamWorks Animation’s distribution deal with Paramount ends next year, and Deadline has already reported that Jeffrey Katzenberg is on the lookout for his next partner — we’ve heard he had zeroed in on Time Warner after talks with Comcast, Disney, Universal, Fox and Sony fell through. So here’s another potential partner for DWA: DWA. Bloomberg is reporting that the animation studio may take over distribution duties for itself and could even act as a distrib for other producers, a source says. Under the plan, DWA would market and distribute its 2-3 films per year, then offset those costs by doing the same for others in an era when digital distribution has made such a plan more cost-effective than paying off an outside output partner. If true it’s the latest digital play for DWA, which this week announced a deal to distribute its movies on Netflix, ending its relationship with HBO — though it remains to be seen how lucrative a tie-up that deal will be (see Spin Cycle: Who Says Netflix Is Paying DreamWorks Animation $30M Per Picture?).
When Emilio Estevez launched The Way at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, reaction was encouraging for the film he directed and which stars his father, Martin Sheen, as a grieving dad who walks The Camino de Santiago to honor his dead son. The movie’s good, but it is also the kind of well-intentioned picture that often slips through the cracks. Estevez has found a way to escape the straight-to-DVD fate that befalls many such films. He and Elixir Films’ David Alexanian have partnered with John Sloss and Bart Walker’s Producers Distribution Agency and Trevor Drinkwater’s ARC Entertainment to open the film exclusively in AMC Theaters in 15 markets on Oct. 7 for its first week, before broadening to 15 markets the following week and then expanding to 500 screens across the country.
The release will be overseen by a team of distribution vets that includes Dennis Rice, Richard Abramowitz and Cynthia Swartz. Appropriate for a film about a road trip, Estevez and Sheen will conduct a bus tour for eight weeks prior to the film’s wide release to drum up awareness. They’ll be gassing up the bus for a late August start.
UPDATE: Cinedigm Plans Major Effort To Reshape Movie Theater Entertainment After Selling Distribution Biz To Technicolor
Cinedigm shares are up 8.7% in after hours trading following the announcement of a deal that clarifies the company’s growing focus on digital entertainment that exhibitors can show at times when many have trouble filling seats. Cinedigm will continue to help theaters install digital projectors, CEO Chris McGurk tells me. But it’s turning over to Technicolor the part of the business that delivers digital entertainment to theaters via satellite or hard drives. ”More and more our focus will be on software and content” says McGurk who ran Anchor Bay Entertainment before moving to Cinedigm in January.
Indeed, over the next two months he says he’ll begin to announce deals with theater owners who’ll let Cinedigm program venues like a TV network. “Monday could be action sports night,” he says. “Tuesday could be opera night. Wednesday could be Broadway night.” He says theaters could sell tickets on a subscription basis. One incentive to sign on: ”We’re going to cut exhibitors in on the downstream VOD, DVD, pay TV and free TV sales from content that debuts in their theaters. I don’t think anyone has ever offered that in exhibition before.” Cinedigm also will continue to offer one-off events similar to the 3D showing in April of a live concert by Foo Fighters.
Meanwhile McGurk says Cinedigm is looking for other deals to help clarify its new direction. “The company is in five different businesses and has had a confusing story to the investment community,” he says. “We’re looking to rationalize our businesses other than software and content.”
Here’s the announcement of the deal with Technicolor:
Lionsgate is teaming with Kevin Smith’s SModcast Pictures to distribute Smith’s thriller Red State, the movie starring Melissa Leo and John Goodman that the director purchased theatrical rights to at Sundance earlier this by paying himself $20 at the end of a bogus auction for buyers (the film has made about $1 million from 15 single-show engagements as Smith shows it around the country). Under terms of the new deal, Lionsgate obtains rights to distribute the title on all packaged media, video on demand, subscription video on demand, electronic sell-through and TV in the US, while SModcast retains theatrical rights. The film is scheduled to be released on multiple platforms in September followed by packaged media before year’s end. Red State revolves around a group of teens in Middle America who receive an online invitation for sex but soon encounter fundamentalists with a much more sinister agenda.
When I was at Sundance, the buzz was about theater chains getting into the distribution game, with Tom Ortenberg at the reins. Regal Entertainment and AMC Entertainment are the chains and they are formalizing a new company to become another film buyer, per an LA Times story. Some at Sundance wondered if this was related to the push by studios to shrink theatrical windows, with the idea that if theater chains generate their own product and give it favorable treatment, it might give studios pause. Ortenberg has been mentioned for a bunch of jobs, including the idea he would take over Bill Pohlad’s Apparition, for which he was consulting after Bob Berney left. More to come.
EXCLUSIVE: PMK*BNC has formed a film marketing and distribution department. It will be headed by Marian Koltai-Levine, the former marketing head of Fine Line Features and Picturehouse. Koltai-Levine, who started Zipline Entertainment after Bob Berney’s Picturehouse was shuttered, is bringing her entire staff over to PMK*BNC. The move is to be announced this morning. Koltai-Levine adds another dimension to PMK*BNC, which formed in January when InterPublic merged PR powerhouses PMK/HBH and Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, with BNC’s Michael Nyman and Chris Robichaud running the venture with PMK/HBH’s Cindi Berger. That merge was a tumultuous undertaking that reshaped the showbiz PR landscape: among other defections, Simon Halls, Robin Baum and Stephen Huvane, left with Andy Gelt to form Slate with Ina Treciokas, and Jennifer Allen and Melissa Kates exited and brought their clients to launch Viewpoint.