Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse has announced that it is expanding its brand into film distribution, with Chris Morris's Sundance fave "Four Lions" coming along with it. "Lions" was acquired as the first film under the new Drafthouse Films label, CEO and Founder Tim League announced today.
"I saw 'Four Lions' at Sundance this year and fell in love with it," League told indieWIRE. "I've been a huge fan of Chris Morris' British TV work for years, and to debut our new label with his new film is a dream come true. The film is hysterical and I think the timing is perfect. There is a lot of heated debate about Islamophobia and the 'Ground Zero' mosque. I think throwing 'Four Lions' into the mix at this time can show that there there is some silliness on both sides. Chris Morris exhaustively researched Jihadism for the film and a lot of the buffoonery portrayed is based in factual accounts."
The film has been a large presence on the festival circuit in the past year. Following Sundance, "Four Lions" had the closing night slot of South by Southwest, won the Independent Camera Award at Karlovy Vary and was voted Best Narrative Feature by audiences at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Eric Kohn wrote of "Lions" in an indieWIRE review during Sundance:
"Shot with a handheld documentary style, 'Four Lions' contains an engine of rapid-fire dialogue reminiscent of last year's hit British satire, "In the Loop." Similar to that movie's wink-and-nod snapshot of political mismanagement, situational comedy meets a dramatic counterpoint. The quartet of Islamic radicals in Morris's movie fully believe in the vitality of their mission, which serves to create a grave undertone throughout the story. They seem so likable — so like us! — that the impending possibility of their collective demise creates an almost unbearable tension."
"Four Lions" will kick off a 10-city promotional screening tour with Chris Morris in attendance in mid-October. The film is slated to release this fall in New York, Los Angeles and Austin and will expand wider in the following weeks.
As for the launch of Drafthouse Films itself, League said today that it "seems like a natural progression for the Alamo Drafthouse Brand."
"We are expanding our theater network via franchise growth as well as company-owned theaters," he said. "We spend a lot of time and energy promoting films in the Austin market already, championing films that we love. Doing the same thing on a national scale is not that much different, especially as our theater network grows."
He also is quite optimistic of doing so in questionable economic times.
"People keep talking about 'these times' as being rough for distribution," he said. "I don't agree at all. I think that the rules have just changed. I'm personally bullish on the future of distribution. With new social networking tools to get the word out quickly and new platforms to release films in additional to traditional theatrical, I think we might be entering a new golden era for independent film distribution."