By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire December 9, 2009 at 11:14AM
Richard Lorber and Don Krim, veterans of art and specialized film distribution for more than thirty years each, first met during their freshman year at Columbia University in the '60s. The two have separately built strong track records distributing international cinema -- on big screens and small -- in the U.S. Now, as they announced today, the two will combine forces to try to leverage a large library for the future.
Over the years, Lorber and Krim worked together and then became friendly competitors. Now, they will jointly run the newly merged Kino Lorber, which has a combined library of some 600+ titles. They will be releasing films in traditional theatrical and home video models, but also positioning the catalog for emerging digital platforms.
Lorber's Fox Lorber, which eventually become Wellspring and was later sold to the Weinstein Company, handled video distribution for early Kino International titles and Kino managed Lorber's non theatrical releases of film by Tarkovsky and others.
Founded in 1977, Kino has a long history in classic and foreign cinema, including the acclaimed Janus Collection. Don Krim, a veteran of UA Classics and non-theatrical distribution, bought one-year old Kino from Bill Pence, who left to run the Telluride Film Festival.
Bumping into each other frequently in airports or at festivals, about a year ago Lorber and Krim began talking about the idea of joining forces. When Richard Lorber re-organized after breaking with his previous company, Koch Lorber, he and Don Krim got more serious.
"We've seen a lot of closing of art film distributors," Krim told indieWIRE today, "It's tough out there and getting tougher. At this point it makes sense, we are going to be bigger and stronger by pooling our resources and libraries."
"The business is ceaselessly full of surprises," added Lorber, during a call with indieWIRE today. He added that he is particularly optimistic about the constant crop of quality cinema that keeps coming from around the world.
The deal will make them "the biggest of the little guys," Krim and Lorber told the New York Times in a related story today.
"As our track record shows, the films are what it's about, but you have to be saavy about how to put it together," Lorber said, "There are great films out there and we are in a position to connect them with an audience."
"We are able to offer producers an expertise that is not easily duplicated," Krim added, singling out the work of a longtime colleague, head of distribution Gary Palmucci. All of the employees from both companies will keep their jobs and are now working together at the Kino offices, with the Lorber folks building out a warehouse area that was once used for storing VHS tapes.
Some 20 films in theaters and 60 on home video will be released by Lorber Kino next year, on one of four labels: Kino Internation, Lorber Films, Alive Mind (for documentaries) and Knitting Factory Entertainment (for music films).
Krim's Kino International has a long history of introducing early work from filmmakers who have become well-known art house names. Films from auteurs including Michael Haneke, Aki Kaurismaki, and Wong Kar Wai are among the movies in the Kino Library. Next up is Giorgos Lanthimos's "Dogtooth," winner of the Un Certain Regard Award prize at Cannes this year.
Kino is also laying the foundation for a major re-release of "Metropolis," a restored version from a 16mm print that was discovered. It features a longer version that has never been seen. The film will debut at the Berlin International Film Festival in February and then at a new classic film fest in Los Angeles before debuting in theaters next summer and on DVD in the fall.
Lorber, who has made his name focusing on work from France, among others, not to mention a strong focus on documentaries, is currently finding success with Aleksandr Sokurov's "The Sun," a film that debuted a few years ago at the Berlinale but is only now making it to the U.S. In a recent profile, citing "The Sun," Lorber told indieWIRE that he is aimed at releasing, "the classics of tomorrow." He is currently pursuing a deal for Erik Gandini's acclaimed doc, "Videocracy" from the recent Toronto, Hamptons and IDFA festivals.
Both Lorber and Krim expressed a general sense of optimism about the film business, despite ongoing hurdles.
"The biggest challenge is finding new paths to the consumer," Lorber explained, during the phone call today. "That doesn't mean digital only. There will be a digital future," he explained, noting that financially viable digital models are still to emerge and adding that he and Krim still believe strongly in, to use his words, "Showing films on big screens in dark rooms and [selling] pieces of plastic," that give buyers the ability to watch them when they want.