A new independent US distributor has been founded by industry veterans Mike Marcus, Andy Gruenberg and Craig Baumgarten. Named MAC Releasing, the company intends to capitalize on untapped commercial opportunities in the distribution of independent films and kicks off with the release of A Shot At Glory starring and produced by Robert Duvall and directed by Michael Corrente on May 3.

The company has already sealed long-term output deals with Showtime for US pay-TV and Lions Gate Home Entertainment for US home video/DVD as well as an exclusive print deal with Deluxe Labs and financing through City National Bank. Former president of PolyGram Films Andrew Fogelson has been brought in as a consultant through his AFA Company.

Gruenberg said that the goal of the company was to tap into long-standing relationships with domestic exhibitors, both specialized and mainstream, to create a new position for a "creative" distribution company. Gruenberg himself was most recently president of distribution at Miramax Films, and prior to that spent seven years as executive vice president of MGM. Baumgarten is the co-founder of Baumgarten-Merims Productions, produced Hook, It Could Happen To You, Universal Soldier and Jade among others and has production executive stints under his belt at Columbia Pictures, Lorimar Pictures and 20th Century Fox. Marcus, meanwhile was formerly president of MGM Pictures, a senior agent at CAA and founder of management and production company Cornice Entertainment.

The three have been working on setting up MAC for two and a half years and plans to release 10-12 English-language films a year. Marcus wouldn't say the size of the City National credit line but said that the emphasis will be on acquiring completed films usually outside the over-heated bidding wars of the film festival circuit. "We're not going to Cannes this year because we have too much stuff we are finalizing here," he said yesterday, "but we are not capitalized well enough to get involved in bidding wars. If we see a film with Miramax and USA and the others, it's more than likely that they are going to beat us if there is a bidding war." He cited The Spitfire Grill as an example of a film which went for a high price due to festival bidding madness.

He also said MAC didn't mind buying films rejected by other companies such as A Shot At Glory, which first screened to buyers at Toronto 2000. "We want to find things we can sell," he said. "Get Shorty was turned down by everyone before it arrived with me at MGM, so we do not have that mentality. We want films we can exploit. Films with a hook. Just having a name is not good enough." He said that while the output deals exclude foreign language films, MAC is nevertheless looking for other niche films such as films for black audiences, upscale black audiences and Hispanic audiences. MAC plans to establish a presence at the Sundance, Cannes and Toronto festivals.

A Shot At Glory opens in 225 US theatres on Friday.