Zeitgeist Films and Kino Lorber have always been kindred spirits, but as of this week, the indie distributors are officially strategic partners, a business relationship that has been in works for the past six months. Richard Lorber’s arthouse distribution company has formed a multi-year alliance with Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo’s Zeitgeist that will see the two companies co-acquire four to five theatrical titles per year that will be marketed and released by Zeitgeist Films, starting with the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival audience award-winner “The Divine Order.” Directed by Petra Volpe, the film tells the story of a young housewife in Switzerland in 1971 who stands up to the closed-minded villagers in her town and overthrows the status quo.
“We were at Tribeca and covered every film that we could get our eyes on, but we totally missed ‘The Divine Order’ for some reason,” Lorber said. “Nancy and Emily said it was great, we committed to doing it, and two days later it won the audience prize at Tribeca.”
Founded in 1988, Zeitgeist film’s is known for having distributed early films by directors including Todd Hayes (“Poison”), Christopher Nolan (“Following”), Laura Poitras (“The Oath”) and Atom Egoyan (“Speaking Parts”), but has struggled in recent years to adapt to the changing landscape for indie distributors.
“There’s no denying the fact that the business has gotten tougher, and I think over the years Zeitgeist has maintained an almost artisanal approach, which has not always kept pace with some of the other opportunities that have been available, such as the expansion of digital and alternative venues that films can play in,” Lorber said. Going forward, Kino Lorber will become the exclusive distributor of all Zeitgeist films for the home video, educational, and digital media markets, adding Zeitgeist’s roughly 130-film library to its collection of 1,600 titles.
“Once home video sort of ended as a possibility for us, we really had to go into the digital realm, and dealing with five or six films a year, it’s difficult to really bulk up your digital [catalog] to be able to do the sort of deals that Kino Lorber is able to do,” Gerstman said. “It’s been very tough, so these are really great resources for us to be able to have.
Kino Lorber will release two of Zeitgeist’s 2016 films, the biographical documentary “Eva Hesse” and “Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt.” Zeitgeist’s 2001 film “Nowhere in Africa” won the Academy Award for best foreign language film, taking more than $6 million at the U.S. box office. Some of the company’s most successful theatrical releases include “Bill Cunningham: New York,” “The Corporation” and “Aimee & Jaguar.”