New York''s ambitious Unapix Entertainment has hired film marketing specialist Richard Abramowitz, most recently senior executive vice president of Carl Ichan's Stratosphere Entertainment, to spearhead the company''s new push into US theatrical releasing.

As president of Unapix Films Theatrical, Abramowitz will oversee the release of six feature films over the next twelve months directly into domestic theatres. Previously, Unapix has partnered up with theatrical distributors such as Zeitgeist Films to put out pick-ups such as Broken Vessels.

Unapix Entertainment chairman and chief executive officer Herbert Pearlman elaborated: "Over the past five years Unapix Entertainment has laid the foundation to become a mini-studio, and Unapix Films Theatrical now completes this process. To date our Company has acquired or co-produced in excess of 160 films. Now it is time for us to release films ourselves, directly into theatres, which should enhance our growth and profitability."

Robert Baruc, president of Unapix Films, explained that theatrical distribution "will enable us to leverage our marketing expertise and broaden our film base as we continue to attract higher profile films."

Backed by a $40m revolving credit facility with GE Capital, Unapix Entertainment already distributes, produces and licenses what it terms "market-driven" feature films, television programming and special interest home video in all other media worldwide, including the Internet and other new electronic media. Indeed, the company''s video arm released Joan Chen''s Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl, an art-house release that was theatrically marketed by Abramowitz while he was at Stratosphere.

Unapix, which is publicly quoted on the American Stock Exchange, is particularly effective in that US home video marketplace. Through it's A-Pix Entertainment division, the company recorded four of the top ten most profitable rentals in the seven years between 1992-98, as measured in terms of return on investment by Video Store Magazine. Those titles were:1998''s Invisible Dad (an ROI of 412.2%), 1998''s Boys Will Be Boys (237.5%); 1995''s Sister My Sister (218%) and 1998''s The Robin Hood Gang (196%).

The company has also achieved success in the US syndication market, clearing its first package of 15 feature films, among Getting In with Calista Flockheart and the Antonio Banderas-starrer Outrage for broadcast in more than four fifths of American television homes in 1999.