AMC and Regal unveil new film distribution firm Open Road Films
The nation's two largest theater operators announced plans Monday for launching their own distribution company to acquire and release independent films. Regal Entertainment and AMC Entertainment have named their joint venture, which the Times first reported on three weeks ago, Open Road Films.
The new company -- headed by Tom Ortenberg, a former senior executive for the Weinstein Co. and Lions Gate Entertainment -- aims to distribute eight to 10 movies a year and release its first film later this year. The venture has been in the works since last fall.
Regal and AMC did not specify what films they would distribute but said they would be wide-release movies. In an interview, Ortenberg said the joint venture will not compete with studios by acquiring big-budget event films but instead will buy smaller projects that are anywhere from the script stage to completed movies.
"There are a number of films that are being financed independently that are capable of going out wide,'' Ortenberg said. "It's just that most of them are not found in film festivals."
Gerry Lopez, chief executive of Kansas City, Mo.-based AMC noted in a statement that "as major studio releases have declined in recent years, Open Road films will fill an important gap that exists in the market today."
Nonetheless, the move could further strain already tense relations between theaters and studios by casting cinema owners in the role of distributing and marketing movies -- traditionally the domain of the Hollywood studios. Exhibitors are already at odds with distributors over how soon movies should be delivered into the home.
The types of movies that Open Road will release will put it in direct competition with small distributors such as Lions Gate and Summit Entertainment. Asked whether companies such as those should be concerned about competing with Open Road for AMC and Regal screens, Ortenberg said. "We think there's plenty of room for everyone."
AMC Chief Executive Amy Miles said the joint venture will not be exclusive to AMC and Regal.
"Open Road Films will distribute these movies to theaters across the United States, playing them well beyond Regal and AMC's screens," she said.
-- Richard Verrier and Ben Fritz