Capturing TheFriedmans, AndrewJarecki's galvanizing documentary which was the talk of this year'sSundance Film Festival and winner of its documentary grand jury prize, will bereleased in US theatres in a three-way partnership between Jarecki himself,Eamonn Bowles' Magnolia Pictures and HBO Documentary Films.
The team hasopted for an exclusive run in New York City on May 30 followed by an expansionto the next ten major US markets two weeks later. HBO will then premiere thefilm on its channels before the video/DVD release.
Jarecki,speaking from Rome where he is coordinating the release via fax and e-mail,said that he wanted to create a collaborative partnership between the threeparties, all of whom have some participation in the the theatricalrelease. Jarecki said he wants the theatrical release to distinguish the moviein a way it wouldn't be if it went straight to HBO, although he adds thatthe potential audience on HBO is ultimately where the most people will beexposed to the film.
Capturing TheFriedmans is theportrait of the Friedman family, who, in 1988 in Great Neck, Long Island,became the focus of the local and national media when father Arnold Friedmanand his son Jessie were arrested and accused of multiple child rapes andabuses. The film, which includes extraordinary footage shot within the familyat the time, examines the different versions of the truth which emerged fromthat scandal, the subsequent trials and the incarceration of the two.
Jarecki, who waspreviously founder and CEO of the highly successful Moviefonetelephone-ticketing system which was acquired by AOL in 1999, was always goingto be involved in the distribution of the film.
He teamed withSundance expert John Sloss and Cinetic Media to handle sales of the film duringthe festival and said that numerous offers came in from first-rank independentsand studio-owned specialty companies as well as smaller distributors."Coming out of there, I decided to use the film as a text book case forme to understand the process," he told Screen Daily yesterday. "I met with nearly every distributor out there, some who said it should bereleased in December to qualify for awards season, some who said that it shouldopen around the end of the summer. But the one thing they had in common wasthat they all had 12 films on their release schedules or more and that thisfilm was going to take more than one twelfth of a company's attention. Itneeded a careful hand."
Jarecki saidthat he felt an obligation to the Friedman family not to surrender control ofthe film to a distributor which would conceivably exploit the dilemma of thefamily for the film's success. "My theory was that, while they wereall talented at what they did, I just didn't trust them with my film,"he says. "I was talking a lot to Sloss and decided that I needed to comeup with an unusual structure. I needed a partner."
At that point,Jarecki stopped talking to the front-rank distributors and started focusing onthe smaller companies which specialized in independent films. "I neededto find a person who had experience with movies that did big numbers but alsohad the agility to allow me the kind of input I would require and becollaborative," he said.
He settled onindependent veteran Bowles, whose new company Magnolia had enjoyed success withSur Mes Levres, LateMarriage and others."Eamonn was always very straightforward and had a reputation for beinghonest and intuitive," explains Jarecki.
At the sametime, the film-maker said he knew that he wanted a pay-TV deal with HBO afterthe theatrical release. "I knew that HBO liked the film, so I went tothem and suggested that we all work together on the theatrical," he said."After all, HBO has renowned marketing capabilities, so why not applythat to the theatrical release."
Bowles suggestedthat the film open before the summer season kicked in on May 30; qualificationfor the best documentary feature Academy Award category is also met by such atheatrical release. Jarecki says that the film will be dubbed "HBODocumentary Films presents A Magnolia Pictures release of an Andrew Jareckifilm."
As for how thefilm will be pitched to audiences, Jarecki says that they are "leavingroom for the audience."
"Whenever the film plays, everybody whowatches it seems to have their own personal opinion," he explains,"so we want to create a dialogue with the audience. For example atscreenings, we will hand out cards asking 'Who do you believe''"
New York-basedadvertising agency Mad Dogs & Englishman, which worked with Jarecki atMoviefone, has been hired to create the campaign. "They areground-breaking, award-winning creative types who are also very out-of-the-boxthinkers," he says.
A pattern forinternational distribution has yet to be established, although Jarecki andSloss are currently evaluating a number of international sales agents anddistributors in key territories.
For HBODocumentary Films, the division run under the aegis of Sheila Nevins, the move into theatricaldistribution builds upon the relationships struck with other theatricaldistributors such as Artisan Entertainment on Amandla! A Symphony In FourPart Harmony andTHINKFilm on the upcoming Spellbound and Bus 174.