Veteran distributor Richard Sheffield was buying with a new hat on at Cannes but is only now willing to talk up Pinnacle Films, Australia’s newest name in distribution.
Parent company All Interactive Distribution (AID), an established DVD and games business, unsuccessfully attempted to move into theatrical under its own name about three years ago. The new name Pinnacle is the result of a competition held among the 160 staff of AID.
“I set up REP Distribution for the Becker Group in the late 1980s so I’m getting a bit of déjà vu,” said Sheffield who has also been head of Universal and Polygram in Australia and was consulting for Hoyts at the time it picked up Twilight.
He expects to acquire six to eight theatrical titles per year and to boost additional DVD numbers beyond the current average of two per month.
One of his first releases will be The Reef from Australian director Andrew Traucki (Black Water), which he brought with him from his own company, Polyphony Entertainment.
At Cannes he acquired Snow Flower And The Secret Fan from director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club), which Fox Searchlight is releasing it in North America, and The Bang Bang Club from Steven Silver, which premieres in Toronto.
“You have to sift through and look for the nuggets and hope you get them before anyone else does,” said Sheffield. “One of the issues here is that there are a lot of independent distributors but I am not going to get into bidding wars. That only helps the sales agent.”
He is looking for anything commercial, whether foreign language titles or small or wide releases: “It sounds glib but if you don’t make money you can’t keep buying.”
The DVD business is generally in better health in Australia than in many other territories because poor infrastructure limits download speeds but this is unlikely to last.
“If you are going to be in this business you have to buy all rights,” he said.
Sheffield has relocated from Sydney to AID’s purpose-built premises on Queensland’s Gold Coast.