TheSundance brand will make its theatrical debut in the US, as The SundanceChannel announced yesterday that it will launch a film series that will seefour features released in at least ten major US markets from August throughNovember 2003. Similar in spirit to the film series launched by now-defunct TheShooting Gallery in 2000, the Sundance distribution programme will be exclusiveto exhibitor Loews Cineplex.

Ata press conference in Park City, Sundance founder and president Robert Redfordsaid the film series is the latest evolutionary step of the Sundance ethos,beginning with the filmmakers' labs as an incubator for artists, the festivalas a showcase for their projects, and the Sundance Channel for electronicdistribution.

SaidRedford, 'The series is an outgrowth of something I observed over many years.As the public part of the festival began to increase the mix suggested therewas a market out there that was not being touched. So on the assumption that the mainstream has narrowed and become more formulaic - that's opened up morespace for developing more films that would underline diversity.'

Theseries will be programmed and administered by the Sundance Channel, withacquisitions handled by Paola Freccero, senior vice president film programming,and Christian Vesper, executive director ancillary rights acquisitions.Speaking at the press conference, Freccero said that films in the series, as onthe channel, need not have played at the Sundance Film Festival.

The first series will be atest of the formula and that future series will hinge on those initial results.Said Freccero, 'We want to date before we get married.' Each of the four filmswill receive a theatrical release in at least ten markets, including New York,Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. The film mix will include fiction anddocumentary features, along with some foreign-language titles in future series.The films will continue on to Sundance brands in ancillary markets, in homevideo and then on the Sundance Channel. Should a film breakout theatrically,the terms of the deal with Loews Cineplex allows for extended runs and widerrelease. Any proceeds will be directed to the filmmakers and to the non-profitSundance Institute.