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Cuban & Wagner Unveil Truly Indie, New Initiative Featuring Filmmaker Funded Theatrical Releases

Cuban & Wagner Unveil Truly Indie, New Initiative Featuring Filmmaker Funded Theatrical Releases

Three films have been tapped to launch Truly Indie, a new distribution initiative formed by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner‘s 2929 Entertainment. Truly Indie will enable theatrical distribution funded by filmmakers themselves, mainly through 2929’s Landmark Theaters, the country’s biggest arthouse theater circuit. Offering a twist on the service deal model, a filmmaker pays an up front fee that covers all distribution costs (marketing, advertising, and publicity). Securing a one-week run in at least five markets (or as many as twenty markets), the filmmaker keeps 100% of box office receipts and retains all rights to their film. The first three projects on tap for the venture are Ian Gamazon and Neill dela Llana’s “Cavite,” Mari Marchbanks’ “Fall to Grace,” and Donal Logue’s “Tennis Anyone?

“This is a new distribution company,” explained Bill Banowsky, the CEO of Magnolia Pictures and Landmark who is running the new 2929 Entertainment initiative, in a conversation with indieWIRE Monday. “We are creating a new distribution company called Truly Indie, it is completely outside of Landmark, but it has a relationship with Landmark and other theaters.”

Filmmakers can pay as little as $40,000 for a one week placement in five markets or as much as $150,000 for a week-long theatrical run in 20 markets, according to Banowsky. In most markets, the local Landmark theater will serve as the venue for the release, but in the case of New York, Truly Indie will work with the Quad Cinema because of the competitiveness of advance bookings at its Sunshine Cinema in Manhattan. Truly Indie releases can take place via digital distribution as part of the digital upgrade at Landmark that will launch early next year, or filmmakers can provide film prints for their week-long runs.

“Plain and simple it’s a way for indie film makers to slide by the gatekeepers,” Mark Cuban told indieWIRE today, in an email interview. “Traditionally movies have had to find distribution in order to get into theaters. The Truly Indie program allows filmmakers to control their own destiny.”

Kelly Sanders is on board for a key role at Truly Indie. Based in the Magnolia Pictures/Landmark Theaters office in Austin, TX, she served nearly three years as president of Acme Film Booking, programming indie theatres across the country. She also previously served as VP of the Sarasota Film Society and Morris Projects. Sanders will accept film submissions for considersation (which includes an entry fee). Films will be accepted based on artistic merit and the determination of their ability to find an audience, whether that audience is large or small, according to Banowsky. The Truly Indie group, which includes Sanders and a mix of people from other 2929 Entertainment divisions, will work with the accepted filmmakers to develop a strategy for the release. Key people from 2929, Landmark and Magnolia will work on executing the release plan for the movie, Banowsky said.

A notable inclusion for the Truly Indie slate is “Cavite,” the low-budget indie that has been a hit on the festival circuit and was shepherded by indie vet John Pierson and his advanced producing class at the University of Texas at Austin. It will be released in ten markets in the Spring, according to Banowsky. Pierson’s class repped the film at its SXSW debut and half the class traveled to the Los Angeles Film Festival where the true potential for the film was realized, Pierson explained Monday.

Pierson said that he and his students considered other distribution options and ultimately decided that going with Truly Indie made sense. “The infrastructure is in place to take advantage of all these skills — I think we’ll be able to call on the expertise of other people who will play a role in this whole Truly Indie operation.” Continuing he complimented Truly Indie as a “more of a formalized system you can just plug into, the structure that’s already been built instead of just crossing your fingers and hoping.”

“The vast majority of independent films that are made and are good enough to be accepted into a number of film festival do garner attention,” explained Banowsky, “But the vast majority of those are the minority of all (the films) made,” he added, “And they do not secure distribution — are not seen — in any meaningful way.” Continuing he explained that existing film distributors have an overhead to deal with and if they don’t see an obvious marketing hook they will pass, leaving smaller and riskier films without distribution.

From left to right, with Gina Gershon in Toront this year are: “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” director Alex Gibney, Bill Banowsky, CEO of Magnolia Pictures and Landmark Theaters, and 2929 Entertainment partner, Mark Cuban. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

Even at his own Magnolia Pictures, which he runs with Eamonn Bowles, Bill Banowsky explained, “It’s a very expensive process, we can’t do it unless we believe there is the possibility of a significant return.” He added, “Our goal for Truly Indie is to create an alternative distribution company to eliminate many of the efficiencies that are in the independent film distribution system,”

“I believe that the film distribution system is rather closed,” Banowsky said Monday, “What we are trying to do is open it up.”

Also on the Truly Indie slate, set for release in November and December, will be actor Donal Logue’s “Tennis Anyone?” starring Logue, Jason Isaacs, Paul Rudd, and Stephen Dorff. The film is described as “a funny and surprisingly poignant film about friendship, fatherhood, and the complete and utter hypocritical lunacy of the world of celebrity/ charity events.” It will be released in five markets, including Berkeley, San Diego, and Boston, with two other venues to be determinted.

In the Spring, Truly Indie will release Mari Marchbanks’ first feature, “Fall to Grace.” The film is described as the story of a Georgian emigrant family and it had its world premiere at SXSW and won best feature film at the Rhode Island Film Festival and the narrative feature prize at the New Orleans Film Festival. It will be released in five markets.

“There are so many times when filmmakers just get worn down,” explained Banowsky, “They get an offer for $25,000 to sell all North American rights for a long long time and they take the money and they hope that the film company will share their vision for how to get the film seen. We think that hope is a bad business strategy, so this way the filmmaker controls his or her destiny, truly.”

[For more information on Truly Indie, please visit their website.]

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