Three years after successfully redrawing the cinema map of Manhattan with the opening of an influential arthouse theater on the Lower East Side, Metrograph is launching a distribution company.
Metrograph Pictures will put out both new releases and restored classics. It will be led by Head of Distribution George Schmalz, an industry vet who most recently curated AMC Networks’ Sundance Now streaming service. Schmalz will team with Jake Perlin, Artistic Director and Director of Programming of Metrograph, on acquisitions.
The distributor’s first title, The Competition (Le Concours), will open February 22. Claire Simon’s documentary portrait of the admissions process at French film school La Fémis screened in Venice as well as festivals in Vienna and London and got the True Vision award at the True/False Film Festival. After opening at the Metrograph, the film will expand nationally, the company said.
Restorations of several films are also on the release slate, including Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Hyenas (Touki Bouki Hyenas (1992), opening April 26, and A Bigger Splash, the 1973 documentary portrait of artist David Hockney, which will bow this summer. The company also will be making 35mm prints of three films by Éric Rohmer available for booking: The Aviator’s Wife (1981), Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987), and Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987). All have been restored in 2K by Les Films du Losange and all will also get theatrical releases down the line.
The strategy of leveraging exhibition experience by entering distribution has been deployed by many entities over the years, including recently by the likes of Alamo Drafthouse, a co-founder of Neon. Metrograph got traction quickly as a destination for cinephiles, with its arrival in 2016 coinciding with the waning days of the Landmark Sunshine, which had been a dominant site below 14th Street for a number of years. Uptown on the West Side, Dan Talbot’s longtime redoubt, the Lincoln Plaza (another theatrical venue that fueled a distribution label, New Yorker Films), also shut its doors in 2017 to cap an era in the city.
A track record in repertory exhibition also enabled another New York film institution, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, to expand in the commercial marketplace a few years ago. When the Lincoln Center campus was renovated and the Elinor Bunin Munroe opened in 2011, the organization started commercial firstrun bookings, though it does not distribute films.
“What distinguishes Metrograph Pictures” said Alexander Olch, Founder and President of Metrograph “is our ability now to bring titles on par with the programming of the Metrograph theater to the rest of the country.” Olch continues “The enthusiasm audiences have for the Metrograph cinema has been overwhelming. Now, we are in a position to bring some carefully curated works to anyone who may not be in New York.”
Schmalz, who is slated to appear at Arthouse Convergence at Sundance later this month, said The Competition would make an apt kickoff for the distribution effort. “I look forward to helping shine a much deserved national spotlight on these new and old cinema classics, handpicked by Artistic Director Jake Perlin,” he said.
“Metrograph Pictures is in, many ways, an extension of what we are doing with film programming at Metrograph cinema in NY” said Perlin. “And working with George Schmalz, we can focus on bringing these films to audiences around the country.”