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DAILY NEWS ALERT: Paul Speaker Exits Madstone Amidst Restructuring, New Yorker Team To Head Distrib

DAILY NEWS ALERT: Paul Speaker Exits Madstone Amidst Restructuring, New Yorker Team To Head Distrib

DAILY NEWS ALERT: Paul Speaker Exits Madstone Amidst Restructuring, New Yorker Team To Head Distribution

by Matthew Ross/indieWIRE

(indieWIRE: 08.26.02) — President and COO Paul Speaker has departed Madstone, the New York-based “digital film studio” formed in 1999 by former investment banker Chip Seelig and veteran film executive Tom Gruenberg. The move comes amidst a restructuring of several key departments and upper-management, changes detailed by Seelig in a conversation with indieWIRE Thursday.

Madstone, which incorporates a production and development division along with a releasing unit, a chain of theaters, and a digital network, has handed all traditional distribution and marketing responsibilities to New Yorker Films and its top management team of Dan Talbot and Jose Lopez. New Yorker, which moved into Madstone’s Union Square headquarters in July, was acquired by Madstone in April.

Paul Speaker, who joined Madstone in January, has been replaced by an operating committee comprised of co-CEOs Seelig and Gruenberg, marketing SVP Eda Kapsis, CFO Chris Davis, and general counsel Carol Seelig (Chip’s sister). Speaker will continue to work with Madstone as an independent consultant to pursue the possibility of launching an independent film series similar to the Shooting Gallery Film Series, started while he was president of the now-defunct company.

Madstone has also hired two new execs. Former Nantucket Film Festival producer and Gen Art co-founder Lauren Mansfield will handle company events, and Jen Turner, formerly of Fox Searchlight and Rogers and Cowan, will oversee East Coast marketing.

Seelig said yesterday that the full integration of the existing Madstone departments with New Yorker will be complete by the beginning of next month’s Toronto International Film Festival (which runs Sept. 5 – 14). He would not say whether the company will lay off any employees as a result of the restructuring, but he did indicate that more change within the company should not come as a surprise.

“There will potentially be opportunities, but this is a consolidation,” Seeling told indieWIRE. “When given the choice of trying to build it ourselves or tapping into Dan’s expertise and experience, we went with the second choice. It’s just a wonderful addition to our leadership.”

On the exhibition end, Madstone has already opened five theaters (in Cleveland, Raleigh-Durham, Denver, San Diego, and Albuquerque.) and plans to unveil additional venues in Phoenix, AZ and Ann Arbor, MI, by mid-Sept. “So far, exhibition has really been our home run,” said Seelig, who plans on expanding the chain to 10 to 15 locations. At least one of Madstone’s theaters will be outfitted with digital projection equipment within the next few months.

Madstone’s production/development division hasn’t been nearly as active. Of the three initial members of Madstone’s in-house directing team, only Aaron Woodley has made it past the development stage and into production. (Woodley’s “Rhinoceros Eyes” is current wrapping up post and should be complete by the end of Sept.) And since announcing the initial roster of Woodley, Lisa Siwe, and Joan Stein at the end of 2000, the Madstone Directors Program has only added filmmaker Ewan Morrison to its roster. Seelig said he “hopes but cannot promise” that Stein’s and Siwe’s projects will get off the ground before within the next nine months.

“We’ve definitely learned some lessons on the development end,” said Seelig, who added that the company only realistically expects to develop one to two films per year from now on.

“We’re trying different things,” Seelig told indieWIRE yesterday. “If they work, we go with them, if they don’t, we’ll change other things. We’re proud of what we’ve done so far in a short period of time, and we’re proud of what we’ve done towards integrating the company. New Yorker’s the first step.” [Matthew Ross]

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