EXCLUSIVE: Producers Distribution Agency has signed on to release the SXSW Audience Award-winning documentary Brooklyn Castle. PDA is the releasing arm hatched by Cinetic Media’s John Sloss and Bart Walker that selectively takes on art house fare. Brooklyn Castle marks its fourth release, after the successful docus Senna and Exit Through The Gift Shop and the Emilio Estevez-directed drama The Way. Brooklyn Castle will be released October 19, and once again, Abramorama’s Richard Abramowitz and Bond Strategy’s Marc Schiller will guide the marketing and distribution of the Katie Dallamaggiore-directed film.
Her film tells the inspiring story of chess dominance at Brooklyn’s I.S. 318, an intermediate school where 65% of the students live below the federal poverty line. The school has become a chess powerhouse, the highest ranked junior high chess team in the nation and the focus here is on the students and their challenges and goals, with the backdrop of the pressure of economic hardship and continuing budget cuts on school programs. One strives to become the first female African American chess master, another uses chess to overcome his ADHD, for example.
“Brooklyn Castle is exactly the kind of film that fits with the PDA approach to distribution,” Sloss said. “We believe this film is hugely playable and will resonate not only with those who are interested in the future of our country’s educational system, and the millions of chess players in the US, but also the traditional documentary audience.”
Sloss said that so far, the PDA-distributed films have managed to stay on the circuit for as long as four months, usually on an average of 200 screens that change as the film moves across the country. Exit Through The Gift Shop grossed $3.3 million, the Formula One doc Senna grossed $1.6 million and The Way grossed $4.4 million. “We have no overhead as we wait for the right films to come along,” Sloss told me. “Most distributors have too many films to really engage in the grassroots marketing that art house films used to receive, but that’s what we provide.” The strategy is a throwback to the 90s, where many small distributors existed, latching on to a few films and squeezing every drop of box office out of them. Abramowitz was part of that crowd at Cinecom and other companies.