Tag Archives: thinkfilm

Mark Urman is new ThinkFilm head

ThinkFilm co-founder Mark Urman has been promoted to president of the Capco-owned specialty film distributor.

The official boost for the longtime head of U.S. theatrical had been expected for months. Urman has operated as the de facto boss of the company as plans for the Toronto office’s closure were being finalized, well before co-founder Jeff Sackman announced his departure last week.

Capco owner and ThinkFilm chairman David Bergstein purchased the distributor in fall 2006, and Canadian law obligated the company to sell all its north-of-the-border assets. Entertainment One purchased them last month, and now ThinkFilm’s releases will be distributed through EO’s theatrical arm Seville Pictures.

New York will become the new ThinkFilm headquarters under Urman, with accounting and other back-office operations based at Capco’s Los Angeles offices.

Urman said the company plans to continue as it has, adding some in-house productions and taking on some bigger projects while adjusting its release slate to suit the changing independent film marketplace.

Known as one of the more loquacious executives in the business, Urman co-founded ThinkFilm in 2001 after serving as co-president of Lions Gate Films Releasing. Before that, he held publicity and marketing positions at Dennis Davidson Associates, Columbia Pictures, Triumph Films and United Artists.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

ThinkFilm inks Canadian deal

TORONTO — Indie distributor ThinkFilm has inked an output deal with Canadian distributor Entertainment One to release its titles north of the border through 2010.

ThinkFilm, which was acquired in late 2006 by Los Angeles-based film financier and distributor David Bergstein, also sold Entertainment One the Canadian rights to its 235-strong feature film library.

The sale to Bergstein forced ThinkFilm to put its Canadian assets on the auction block to comply with foreign ownership rules.

Entertainment One, like ThinkFilm based in Toronto, will acquire the 235 features for the remainder of the term that ThinkFilm owns the pictures. Entertainment One now has more than 700 films in its catalog.

The ThinkFilm library includes a host of Sony Pictures Classics titles including Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” Pedro Almodovar’s “All About My Mother,” Ed Harris’ “Pollock” and Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown.”

Patrice Theroux, head of filmed entertainment at Entertainment One, said that about 75 of the ThinkFilm titles are ripe for full DVD exploitation, while another 75 will be aimed at the broadcast market.

As part of the pact, Seville Entertainment, Entertainment One’s newly acquired Canadian film distributor, will release between eight and 12 ThinkFilm theatrical titles each year through 2010.

Upcoming ThinkFilm titles include Paul Schrader’s “The Walker,” Jieho Lee’s “The Air I Breathe” and two documentaries: “Nanking,” directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, and Alex Gibney’s “Taxi to the Dark Side.”

Theroux said that Seville will annually get another 12 straight-to-DVD titles from ThinkFilm.

“The synergy for us is being able to continue to exploit the ThinkFilm library and release the new titles on theatrical and DVD using Seville, which allows us to generate revenue at a reduced cost compared to what ThinkFilm incurred to do it themselves,” Theroux said.

ThinkFilm, formed in 2001 by former Lionsgate executives, remains based in Toronto with company founder and CEO Jeff Sackman at the helm. But it is largely run out of New York by theatrical distribution head Mark Urman.

In addition to Montreal-based Seville, Entertainment One also acquired European distributor RCV Entertainment BV last year, part of a plan to create an international distribution powerhouse.

Entertainment One last week announced that it will release titles from Los Angeles-based Yari Film Group in Canada. It also has a supply agreement with Summit Entertainment.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Alliance Atlantis and Thinkfilm Distribution Set To Change Channels

As the Toronto International Film Festival gets ready to unspool the best field of Canadian films in years, the current shake-up of Canadian distributors has an air of déjà vu.

Producers and distributors have been unsettled by events including a year-long upheaval at Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution and ThinkFilm’s ongoing activity in Canada despite being American-owned for one year.

"Things are in movement, for sure. I’m as curious as everyone else to see where everything lands," says Hussain Amarshi, president of Mongrel Media, which has titles at TIFF including The Jane Austen Book Club and Canuck auteur Carl Bessai’s Normal.

Also making waves is Robert Lantos’ new shop, Maximum Film Distribution, which will handle fest opener Fugitive Pieces, which he produced, and Entertainment One entering the ring by taking over Seville Entertainment, with former MPD president and CEO Patrice Théroux at the helm.

It is the second such distribution shake-up in a decade. The last time events so transformed the sector – lifting it, in fact, to new heights – was 1997.

That year – when Thom Fitzgerald’s The Hanging Garden grabbed the TIFF audience award – witnessed a changing of the guard, as players including CFP, Norstar, Malofilm and Everest Entertainment made way for upstarts Red Sky Entertainment, Equinoxe Films and Motion International.

Fast forward 10 years later, as uncertainty at MPD – formerly controlled by Alliance Atlantis, and now owned by Goldman Sachs and EdgeStone Capital Partners – has rivals eyeing output deals coming up for renewal with U.S. partners including New Line Cinema and Focus Features.

"Whatever uncertainty exists over there may provide opportunity for incumbent suppliers to look around," says Brad Pelman, co-president of Maple Pictures.

Elsewhere, Entertainment One looks to make a splash at TIFF after acquiring Seville, a move that follows the DVD distributor’s purchase of British distributor Contender Entertainment as part of its international expansion.

"We bought Seville as we want an established, mature distribution company in Canada to build upon. [Seville] has a track record, a good library of movies, and an operation where they can sell Canadian movies into the international market," Théroux explains.

Seville’s high-profile Canadian films at TIFF this year include Shake Hands with the Devil, Poor Boy’s Game and fest closer Emotional Arithmetic.

Th̩roux adds that Entertainment One will be acquiring global rights to product for international distribution Рexcept in the U.S. market, where he will focus on DVD and broadcast sales.

"It will allow us to negotiate multi-territory deals, and provide the collateral to complete the financing of individual films," Théroux says, with a focus on acquiring and releasing Canadian films.

"Our investment return will not be reliant on any one territory, and everyone will benefit from the sharing of distribution costs," he adds.

Théroux worked at MPD under Victor Loewy, who is currently negotiating for a promotion from consultant to CEO at that firm, Canada’s largest indie distributor, which is now under new ownership.

Loewy welcomes new competition, not least of all from former colleagues Théroux and Lantos.

"Those companies will bid for films, whether Seville or Robert’s new company. So there will be a realignment of sorts, and we’ll see how this plays out," he says.

Lantos is converting his near-half stake in ThinkFilm – sold along with the company in October 2006 to Los Angeles-based David Bergstein and Capital Pictures – into Maximum Films.

Tony Cianciotta and Charlotte Mickie, former Lantos employees at Alliance Releasing (as it was called before the merger of Alliance and Atlantis) are key in the new company, as managing directors of Maximum Film Distribution and Maximum Films International, respectively.

Over at ThinkFilm, CEO Jeff Sackman dismisses industry concerns over his company’s continuing presence in Canada under American ownership. He says Think is in talks with Canadian Heritage with an eye to settling all concerns.

Also stepping up its game is Christal Films, which is distributing pictures nationwide out of a new Toronto office. And Peace Arch Entertainment has launched a division to release movies stateside, and is combining the newly acquired U.S. DVD distributor Trinity Home Entertainment with Canadian home entertainment distributor kaBOOM! Entertainment to increase the Canadian distribution of its growing film slate.

Peace Arch president John Flock says his company is looking to follow Lionsgate in becoming a vertically integrated producer and distributor.

"We can’t do it on the margins. You have to be a distribution company if you want to succeed," he says.

For its part, Lionsgate, having severed ties with Christal, is mulling once again releasing its own titles in Canada after selling its Canadian distribution arm to Maple in 2005.

A Lionsgate spokesman says a few options are on the table, including enlarging its minority stake in Maple.

Maple’s Pelman says Lionsgate, as a technically Canadian company, can consider a return to distribution here at any time.

But he cautions that Lionsgate has "multiple years" left on its library and output agreements with Maple.

Despite all this hungry competition, Bryan Gliserman, president of Toronto-based Odeon Films (part of the MPD family), expects a strong market at TIFF’s 32nd edition for his company.

"While it is a very competitive environment in which to acquire films, we remain optimistic that with the hard work carried out by our skilled team, we may find a few valuable films," he says.


NEW YORK, THINKFilm has acquired North American rights to NANKING, the acclaimed documentary that recently had its world premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The deal was announced by the company’s Theatrical Head, Mark Urman, who plans to release the film in exclusive engagements in late 2007. NANKING is slated to continue on the festival circuit, with its next stop at Silverdocs, among others to be announced shortly.

NANKING, which marks the producing debut of AOL Vice Chairman Ted Leonsis and is directed by the Academy-Award-winning team of Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman ("Twin Towers"), is a powerful reminder of the heartbreaking toll that war takes on the innocent, and a testament to the courage and conviction of a few individuals determined to act in the face of evil. The film tells the story of the Japanese invasion of Nanking, China in the early days of World War II and focuses on the efforts of a small group of unarmed Westerners who established a Safety Zone where over 200,000 Chinese found refuge. 

The events of the film are told through deeply moving interviews with Chinese survivors, archival footage, and chilling testimonies of Japanese soldiers, interwoven with staged readings of the Westerners’ letters and diaries as performed by Jurgen Prochnow, Woody Harrelson, Stephen Dorff, and Mariel Hemingway, among others.

"NANKING is an exceedingly well-crafted and moving historical recreation of a shocking event," says Urman. "We are proud to add it to our roster of first-rate documentaries and believe that, like the best of them, it will move and enlighten audiences for years to come."

"We are thrilled that THINKFilm has come on board to distribute NANKING," says producer Ted Leonsis. "Their track record with documentaries is unparalleled and they share my passion for the subject matter. Recent events in Asia have reminded us that what happened in NANKING 70 years ago this December remains an open wound between China and Japan. If the release of this film, with its antiwar message can help heal that at all, it will be especially gratifying."

NANKING is directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, produced by Ted Leonsis, Bill Guttentag and Michael Jacobs, with story by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, and screenplay by Elisabeth Bentley, Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman.

The deal was negotiated for THINKFilm by President and CEO Jeff Sackman, Head of Theatrical Mark Urman, Executive Vice President of Acquisitions and Business Affairs Randy Manis, and CAA on behalf of the filmmakers.

THINKFilm Rings Up ’10 ITEMS’

NEW YORK, Sept. 7 /PRNewswire/ – Days before the film’s world premiere as a "Special Presentation" at the Toronto International Film Festival, THINKFilm has signed on as North American distributor of Brad Silberling’s character comedy 10 ITEMS OR LESS, starring Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega, it was announced today by the company’s Theatrical Head Mark Urman.

Written and directed by Silberling, who produced the film along with Lori McCreary and Julie Lynn, with Freeman serving as executive producer, the film is a joint production between Silberling’s Reveal Entertainment and Revelations Entertainment, the company headed by Freeman and McCreary. THINKFilm is planning to open the film in major markets by the end of the year, and 10 ITEMS OR LESS will then have its broadband premiere on ClickStar, an exciting new movie and entertainment broadband download service coming soon.

Representing a bold departure for both Freeman and Silberling, 10 ITEMS OR LESS is an intimately-scaled, two-character comedy in which Freeman plays a major movie star whose pickiness with his projects accounts for a lengthy absence from the screen. While considering a role as a supermarket manager, he decides to do some field research at a small ethnic market on the very outskirts of Los Angeles. Finding himself stranded with no cell phone or transportation, he meets Vega, the feisty cashier who mans the store’s express register. When she offers to drive him back to "civilization," this initially mismatched pair discovers common ground, with the star realizing that his love for people is what drew him to acting in the first place, and the cashier gaining the confidence to interview – or as he terms it, to "audition" — for a job that could change her life.

About the acquisition, Silberling says, "It was always my hope that our film’s rather maverick spirit would be matched by the spirit of its distributor — so THINKFilm feels like an excellent fit. Their intelligence, selectivity and daring taste makes me feel like we’re in good hands, on a picture whose independence we’ve jealously guarded. And I couldn’t be happier to start this partnership now, as our picture takes its first steps out into the world at the Toronto Film Festival." Freeman adds, "It helps when you’ve admired the work they have done on so many unique pictures in the past. And now I admire their taste even more."

Urman says, "As entertaining as it is, 10 ITEMS OR LESS is even more refreshing because it shows how much fun big-studio filmmakers can have when they throw away the rule book and do something risky, hip, and different. As far as I am concerned, Morgan Freeman doesn’t just play God, he IS God. THINKFilm is ready to do His work!"

In keeping with the notion of "throwing away the rulebook," ClickStar will partner extensively with THINKFilm on a national marketing campaign that will simultaneously promote 10 ITEMS OR LESS, while launching the ClickStar service, which will enable subscribers to download the film mere weeks after it has its national theatrical release. This will allow people who don’t have access to independent films to see a new release while it is still being covered by and advertised in the national media.

10 ITEMS OR LESS is produced by Silberling, Lori McCreary and Julie Lynn, executive produced by Freeman, and co-produced by Kelly Thomas, with cinematography by Phedon Papmichael, editing by Michael Kahn, production design by Denise Pizzini, costume design by Isis Mussenden, and original music by Antonio Pinto. The film is a joint production between Silberling’s Reveal Entertainment and Revelations Entertainment.

The deal was negotiated by Randy Manis, THINKFilm Sr. Vice President of Acquisitions and Business Affairs, Richard Rapkowski, THINKFilm Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, and Schuyler Moore from Stroock & Stroock and Cassian Elwes from the William Morris Agency, on behalf of the filmmakers.