Exit Through The Gift Shop, one of Sundance’s most subversive entries, is getting an unorthodox theatrical release. It has been acquired for distribution, sort of, by Producers Distribution Agency, which is run by Cinetic Media’s John Sloss, who repped the film at the festival.
Most buzzworthy Sundance films got bought for minimum guarantees by established distributors who made P&A commitments. This one, a documentary directed by the mystery-shrouded street artist Banksy, will debut in New York, L.A. and San Francisco on April 16 and then slowly platform to other cities. Through PDA, Sloss will book the theaters and handle the marketing and publicity with indie vets Richard Abramowitz and Donna Daniels.
When I passed by the Egyptian Theater one day during the festival, Sloss grabbed me to see the film. Without giving too much away, it focuses on Thierry Guetta, a French aspiring filmmaker who sets out to film street artists-turned art gallery fixtures like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, and then tries his own hand at it, despite questionable talent. It was well received and was funny in a Borat way, and many questioned if the whole thing was a put-on. Sloss swore the self-distribution strategy wasn’t done because no established distributor made an offer. There were several, he said.
Sloss said the strategy is right for Banksy, who never shows his face, and who left his mark at Sundance creating street paintings on walls that included rats wearing 3D glasses. He also decorated the side of a barn visible on the way into town, but that got quickly whitewashed.
“The 20th Century distribution model involved the transfer of rights for 15 to 20 years to distributors who said, `we have the access and knowledge you don’t, give us your film,’” Sloss said. “Now, there are a lot of high quality distribution and marketing execs for hire, and in the 21st Century, is the other model always necessary? We showed this to the head of Landmark Theaters, and he loved it. When Banksy has such an ability to generate awareness, do we really need significant P&A when so much of what Banksy does is viral?”
While Banksy be on hand to paint each town with his own version of a one-sheet?
“I’m not ruling anything out,” Sloss said.
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