Landmark Shuffle; Tribeca Buzz and Party Reports; Big Names at CineVegas; New Distribution Deals & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Changes are afoot at indie art-house chain Landmark Theaters with CEO Paul Richardson and EVP Bert Manzari leaving the company, according to informed inside sources. Bill Banowsky, a co-founder of Magnolia Pictures with Eamonn Bowles, is expected to take the reigns in the wake of Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban's recent acquisition of both Landmark and Magnolia. Wagner did not confirm the news by press time late Thursday.
Scott Greenstein, a former chief at USA Films and October Films, has been named President of programming and marketing at Sirius Satellite Radio.
Former Miramax PR exec Paul Pflug has joined Universal Pictures as Senior VP of Media Relations.
DEAL FOR "SOLSTICE" NEAR: Word on Greenwich Ave is that a theatrical distribution deal for "Winter Solstice," the debut feature film from writer-director Josh Sternfeld, is closing. The film was workshopped at the 2001 Sundance Screenwriters Lab and Tribeca Film Festival attendees have been buzzing about the movie since its world premiere earlier this week at the festival. Word of a deal spread Thursday, with an Indiewood division said to be in the mix. A rep for the movie could not confirm the past late Thursday. The film has been drawing comparisons to "Ordinary People" with its restrained tale of a family struggling with loss. Anthony LaPaglia plays Jim Winters, a suburban landscaper trying to raise his two sons as a widower. One son, Pete (Mark Webber, "Storytelling") is struggling with school problems, while the other, Gabe (Aaron Stanford, "Tadpole") is threatening to move away from home. Allison Janney of "West Wing" fame plays the family's new neighbor, with Ron Livingston ("Office Space") as Pete's summer-school teacher.
Sternfeld is a 1998 graduate of the Graduate Film Program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. His first short, "Balloons, Streamers" (1997) played at the New York Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for broadcast by Canal+, Showtime, and the Sundance Channel. His second short was 1998's "Colin's Date," and after completing that film he worked as an assistant editor at documentary production company Steeplechase Films, where he worked on Ric Burns' "New York: A Documentary Film." John Limotte and Doug Bernheim of Sound Pictures produced "Winter Solstice" and LaPaglia and Jodi Peikoff executive producing. Plummy Tucker ("Girlfight") served as editor, and Harlan Bosmajian ("Lovely @ Amazing," "Brother to Brother") was the film's cinematographer.
TRAIPSING THROUGH TRIBECA: There have been a frenzy of parties this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. Our own co-sponsored event with Kodak on Tuesday night was a smash success (if we may be immodest) as filmmakers and industryites packed into Roy's at the Marriott downtown to feast on tasty Hawaiian-fusion food and mingle. Among the many notable attendees were SXSW's Matt Dentler, Women Make Movies' Debra Zimmerman, "Tying the Knot" director Jim de Seve, Lot 47's Greg Williams, ex Cowboy Pictures head John Vanco, "Pizza" producer Howard Gertler, animator Bill Plympton, Hypnotic's Joe Revitte, Tribeca FF programmer David Kwok, Sundance Channel's Ian Bricke, and dozens more notables.
Other hot tickets this week were the "Tony & Tina's Wedding" party (complete with real wedding!) on Monday, the Discovery Channel party last night, the bowling bash for "A League of Ordinary Gentlemen," the swank Wellspring soiree on Wednesday, and a Cinco de Mayo margarita fiesta for the ladies wrestling doc "Lipstick and Dynamite."
United Artists held a party Wednesday night for Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes" -- it's already a front-runner for our top 10 parties of the year. Why? 1) Jarmusch is a cool guy (with great hair) and he was mingling up a storm with regular attendees, not sheltered away in some VIP area (Bill Murray was doing the same) 2) We caught interesting pairings such as Wu-Tang clan member RZA hanging with the legendary poet and actor Taylor Mead (they both appear in separate shorts collected in "Coffee and Cigarettes") 3) Pigs in a blanket, crabcakes, chocolate mousse, coffee-tinis, chocolate covered espresso beans, a full open bar -- the only thing missing were free handouts of Nicorette 4) film bigwigs mingling with rockstars including Meg White (with cleavage in full effect), Anthony Kiedis, Jesse Malin, and Tim Armstrong of Rancid 5) restaurant City Hall looked even nicer than usual with cool blow-up B&W photos from the film throughout and 6) Jarmusch is so cool that even after the official party ended at the not-so-early hour of 2 a.m., he and his posse continued the celebrations at East Village bar Niagara.
There's more as we head into the weekend. Showtime Independent Films is celebrating its four films in the festival with a bash at lauded restaurant Nobu tonight. Showtime's films here are "Bereft," "Cavedweller," "Baadasssss!," and "Edge of America." Expect a gaggle of stars at this must-attend bash (and let's face it, starving writers such as ourselves would attend a garbage collectors convention if it means a free meal at Nobu).
DVD DEALS: Koch Lorber Films has made several acquisitions for North American DVD distribution. Koch Lorber's recent buys include two films from Oscar winner Denys Arcand, "The Decline fo the American Empire," and "Jesus of Montreal," Fatih Akin's "In July" (the predecessor to his Berlinale award-winner "Head On") , and French film "the Girl From Paris," starring Michel Serrault and the alluring Mathilde Seignier and currently in theaters. In a prepared statement, President Richard Lorber said, "These acquisitions are the tip of the iceberg. There are more than ten additional gems that we'll be ready to announce by Cannes. And I'll be there acquiring at full throttle not just for our DVD schedule but for our new theatrical pipeline following our first big screen release of Lars Von Trier's and Jorgen Leth's 'The Five Obstructions' this spring." The company will be scouting for projects in Cannes.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS...: This year's CineVegas Film Festival (June 11-19) is shaping up to be star-studded. The festival announced that the 2004 honorees include Jack Nicholson as the Marquee Award recipient. Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn will be honored with the inaugural Half-Life award, which recognizes film professionals with an impressive body of work at a young age. David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Julian Schnabel, and Bruce Conner will be presented with the CineVegas vanguard director award. The fest will be held at Las Vegas' Palms Casino and Resort. Lynch, Wenders, and Schnabel will be on hand for Q&As after screenings of their classic films "Eraserhead," "Paris, Texas," and "Before Night Falls" respectively.
LIFE AND ART: Filmmaker Alix Umen has curated a rare exhibition of photomontages by Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, opening today at Studio 1347 in New York. Cahun and Moore were a celebrated female couple lived and worked in Paris as surrealist artists before being arrested by the Gestapo in 1944. Umen has written an upcoming narrative feature film, "I am in Training Don't Kiss Me" (written by Laurie
Collyer), about the artists. For info on the show or the film, visit www.dontkissme.com.
THREAT OF A DEAL: HIQI Media, formed by former Seventh Art Releasing exec Oren Bitan, has acquired the domestic theatrical rights to urban thriller "Threat" from King's Mob Productions. Matt Pizzolo & Katie Nisa's "Threat" is about a street riot in New York's Lower East Side inadvertently caused by a homeless punk and a hip-hop revolutionary. The deal was struck after Bitan saw a five-minute preview and trailer of the film at Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. HIQI plans a release later this year.
INTOXICATED: In yet another deal, American World Pictures has acquired Mark David's sophomore film "Intoxicating" after its world premiere at last month's Method Fest Film Festival in Burbank, Calif. AWP will show the film at the Cannes Market, and it is slated for a limited theatrical release in conjunction with Rogue Arts later in 2004. "Intoxicating" stars Kirk Harris as a charismatic surgeon with an appetite for booze, drugs, and one-night stands. The cast also includes Eric Robert, John Savage, Ron Gilbert, Allan Rich, and Camilla Overbye Roos.
HELP WANTED: The IFP/Minneapolis St. Paul is hiring a full-time director of fellowship programs to administer the new McKnight Artist Fellowship for Screenwriters and the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Filmmakers programs. Qualifications for the position include at least five years experience in the industry. For details, visit www.ifpmsp.org; letters and resumes can be sent to: Executive Director, IFP MSP, 401 N. 3rd St., #490, Minneapolis, MN 55401.
ROME ON THE HUDSON: The famed Cinecittà Studios has formed a new alliance with New York-based Offhollywood Digital. Offhollywood is now the east coast representative for Rome-based Cinecittà Studios and its post-production facility Cinecittà Digital. Carole-André Smith, director of marketing for Cinecittà Studios stated, "With Offhollywood Digital as our East Coast representative, Cinecittà will be able to reach an expanding list of New York-based producers, agencies and production companies that can benefit from working at our studios in Rome. The New York affiliation is the perfect compliment to Cinecittà's staff on the West Coast and in the U.K."