The ranks of theatrical distributors will grow by one in 2019 with the establishment of Forrest Films, a venture fronted by Lucas Oil founder Forrest Lucas and race car driver-turned-actor/producer Ali Afshar.

Forrest will be based on the Warner Bros lot and plans to release seven “high-end, commercial films telling inspiring and purpose driven stories” in its first year of operations.

Kennedy

Scott Kennedy, a veteran of Open Road Films, Miramax and MGM, has been tapped as president of worldwide marketing and distribution. As head of operations and distribution for Open Road, Kennedy handled the rollouts of films like Spotlight, Chef and End of Watch. Open Road went into bankruptcy and was bought in November by Raven Capital Management.

The new company will absorb ESX Productions, the production and financing banner established in 2015 by Lucas and Afshar. Actress and producer Christina Moore, who has produced seven films with Afshar and Lucas, will join the producing team at ESX.

Lucas founded and owns Lucas Oil Products as well as autosports cable network MAVTV, Lucas Oil Speedway, and naming rights to the stadium where the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts play. Afshar, who is still active on the racing circuit, has over the years turned to acting and producing, appearing in films like Three Kings, TV series like King of Queens and then producing titles such as Born to Race.

The 2019 Forrest Films slate will include action/drama Ride, drama Bennett’s War, romantic drama Roped, American Fighter, the sports-themed Lady Driver. thriller The Stand at Paxton County and Wheels of Fortune.

Warner Bros handled the company’s recent titles, American Wrestler: The Wizard, with Jon Voight, and off-road sports drama Dirt, a home entertainment release.

Forrest will not only finance production but also provide P&A funding for theatrical releases.

Lucas said his own rags-to-riches story has inspired his involvement in the movie business as he hopes to offer inspirational stories a wider platform. “I entered the movie industry with a commitment to bring inspirational, hopeful content to the marketplace,” he said. “Putting these movies in theaters is an extension of this mission. Being in the U.S. theatrical distribution business allows for a direct connection to filmgoers and a way to build our purpose-driven brand.”

Added Afshar, “Our feeling is that the types of films we support are underserved in the theatrical space, hence an opportunity exists for us to be the ones delivering movies that speak to these audience segments.”