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DAILY NEWS: New Indie Outfit — ThinkFilm; “Audition” Hits the Road; Lot 47 Exec Named

DAILY NEWS: New Indie Outfit -- ThinkFilm; "Audition" Hits the Road; Lot 47 Exec Named

DAILY NEWS: New Indie Outfit -- ThinkFilm; "Audition" Hits the Road; Lot
47 Exec Named

by Eugene Hernandez, Anthony Kaufman and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

>> Former Lions Gate Execs Join Forces for New Outfit — ThinkFilm; Company Signs Blackwatch Films and Announces First Acquisition

(indieWIRE/08.17.01) — Former Lions Gate Films president Jeff Sackman has unveiled plans for ThinkFilm, a new independent film company that will
include numerous executives from the old Lions Gate. Mark Urman, who
recently left Lions Gate, is on board to head U.S. operations in New York,
while Andy Myers, formerly of Blackwatch Releasing, will lead the Toronto headquarters where Sackman will serve as President and CEO. Notably, the
company has already announced a couple of key deals and executives.

“I thought it was a huge mistake to shut down New York,” Sackman told
indieWIRE yesterday (Thursday), commenting on recent changes at Lions Gate.
“New York is the right place to be for an independent film company.” The
city will be the heart of film operations for ThinkFilm, housing its
marketing, sales, promotion, and acquisitions staff. More than 10 are
expected to make up the New York office and the company expects to have a
staff of about 20.

Already on board are Marc Hirsberg, Lions Gate’s former home entertainment
division VP, as ThinkFilm’s VP of finance and operations, Randy Manis as the
new company’s VP of acquisitions and business affairs (the same post he held
at Lions Gate) and Tamara Shannon as the director of development and

Sackman, a founder of CFP (Lions Gate’s predecessor), explained that he has
already scored the company its first deal. In a pact that he calls “a huge
success” for the outfit, Sackman signed a deal for the rights to a number of
pictures previously assigned to Blackwatch Releasing (a company that Andy
Myers was involved with forming). The pact gives ThinkFilm the Canadian
distribution rights for more than 40 movies, including “Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon
,” “All About My Mother,” and “Pollock.”

Another notable deal is the recent acquisition of the Canadian rights to
Bruce Sweeney‘s “The Last Wedding.” The film is set to open next month’s
Toronto International Film Festival and debut theatrically in Canada in
October, according to Sackman.

The Toronto festival will be an important first fest for the new outfit.
Sackman and Urman promise a high profile at the fest and hope to leave the
event with deals for the first movies in their debut slate.

“We are ready to distribute a film; we just don’t have one,” Urman told
indieWIRE. “We are going into Toronto with definite intentions of coming out
of the festival with acquisitions.” Continuing he added, “We don’t rule out
the idea of finding a film that will deserve a year-end release for awards

At a time when the Indiewood studios and specialty divisions face ongoing
challenges from the MPAA and politicians over the release of button-pushing
movies, smaller outlets like Lot 47, the old Lions Gate, and now ThinkFilm,
are making it clear to the creative community that they want to be a haven
for challenging work. The founders of this new company point to movies they
produced and/or distributed at Lions Gate, including “American Psycho” and

“What distinguished us last time was a willingness and a clear goal to say
‘lets go after edgy films.’ We have no bureaucracy and we have no limits on
what we can do,” Sackman explained to indieWIRE. “[We have] a willingness to
push the envelope and pick up challenging films.”

“I think it is a responsibility, in fact an obligation for the independent
film sector to support those [films],” Urman added, saying that he wants to
continue “exposing audiences to a variety of things — [films that are]
challenging, edgy, even a little bit taboo.”

The ThinkFilm announcement comes at a distinct moment of change among the
players in New York City’s film community: Shooting Gallery shut down, Lions
Gate moved to L.A. and United Artists announced its plan to re-establish in
Manhattan under the leadership of Bingham Ray.

“Whenever companies disappear, it’s kind of sad for everybody,” Urman told
indieWIRE. “The community in New York is a close and tight and friendly one;
as jobs disappear, it diminishes the entire scene.

“When John Feltheimer came in as CEO, he brought in a lot of money,” Sackman
concluded, when asked for additional thoughts on the changes at Lions Gate.
“His background and perspective comes from the studio world. Ours comes from
building [a company] from the ground up. For me personally, I prefer this,
it is the opportunity to do it again — to build it step by step, brick by
brick.” [Eugene Hernandez]

>> Cult Hit “Audition” Lands U.S. Gig with Vitagraph

(indieWIRE/08.17.01) — Miike Takeshi‘s gory psychological thriller
Audition” has been acquired for U.S. distribution by Vitagraph
Films/American Cinematheque Presents
, the distribution label of Los Angeles’
Egyptian Theater. “Audition” opened at New York’s Film Forum last week,
grossing a formidable $29,258, before the fledgling company acquired it.

A hit at Rotterdam 2000 (for those who could stomach the end), the story
follows an older man who falls for a dangerous younger woman, complete with
dismemberment and decapitation and other gruesome details. According to
Vitagraph‘s David Schultz, “Audition” will play across the U.S., with
bookings in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Boston, Chicago, and several
other cities.

Vitagraph will also release the sequel to the Japanese animated cult hit
Vampire Hunter D,” “Bloodlust,” this September in at least 30 cities,
according to Schultz. Started about a year and half ago, the company
recently handled the theatrical release of Franc Roddam‘s 1979 film
Quadrophenia,” which played in 16 cities across the U.S., and a number of
Japanese cult films from the ’60s and ’70s, licensed from the American
Cinematheque’s Japanese Outlaws series. “We try to stay true to what the
American Cinematheque does in its programming,” Schultz told indieWIRE.
“There’s a market for these films.” [Anthony Kaufman]

>> Thompson Parks at Lot 47

(indieWIRE/08.17.01) — New York based Lot 47 Films yesterday announced
that former V.P. of Gramercy Pictures (later USA Films) Bill Thompson has been named to the newly created position of Vice President, General Sales
Manager. Thompson’s career in the industry spans 25 years, beginning as a
salesman in Washington, DC for 20th Century Fox and later he moved to New York where he served as Director of Sales for Cinema 5 Films, a distributor of
American independent and foreign film. Later, Thompson transitioned to film
buyer with some prominent NYC cinemas throughout the ’80s including Cineplex
Odeon Theatres
. In 1988, Thompson became a VP at City Cinemas, a leading
theatre chain and film buyers for the Angelika Film Centers.

While at Gramercy and USA, Thompson was involved with such high-profile
projects as “The Usual Suspects,” “Being John Malkovich,” and multiple
Oscar-winner, “Traffic.” Thompson also currently serves as a lecturer at
New York University. “I’ve dealt with Bill from across the table for over
two decades and he remains one of the brightest and most incisive industry
executives I’ve ever met,” commented Lot 47 President Jeff Lipsky in a
prepared statement, “his wealth of experience is a perfect compliment
to the growing talent pool at Lot 47.” Upcoming 2001 releases are “L.I.E.
by Michael Cuesta, Gary Burns‘ “waydowntown,” and “Happenstance” by Laurent Firode. [Brian Brooks]


In Wednesday’s indieWIRE column, New This Week, we incorrectly stated that
First Run Features was 10 years old. The company was actually founded in

Also, “Love the Hard Way,” recent winner of the Silver Leopard in Locarno as
reported in Monday’s indieWIRE, is a co-production of Vif Babelsberger
Filmproduktion GmbH and Co. Dritte KG and P’Artisan Filmproduktion GmbH in
association with TiMe Film- und TV Produktions GmbH and Open City Films. It
is not solely an Open City production, as reported in indieWIRE.

We regret the errors.

>> YESTERDAY in indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: New Girl Doc; and an NYC Music Doc Fest

(indieWIRE/08.13.01) — A new documentary from Kartemquin Films, producers
of the famed “Hoop Dreams,” is hitting theaters over the next few weeks
in advance of its debut on PBSP.O.V. series. And, Two Boots has
unveiled plans for its 1st Annual Music & Film Festival which it will
present in conjunction with HiQi Media.


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