American Splendor, LXG, Fantastic Four and Future Comics: Comics2Film wrap for July 28, 2003

Mon, July 28th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

TV Film
Rob Worley, Columnist



"American Splendor" arrangement leads to new distribution


From a press release:

HBO Films announced last week the launch of the HBO Films theatrical

distribution arm as it entered into an innovative distribution arrangement with

New Line Cinema's specialized distribution division Fine Line Features. The deal

extends the reach of HBO Films further into the theatrical arena under the HBO

Films banner.

To oversee HBO Films theatrical expansion and the relationship with Fine Line

Features, Home Box Office named Dennis O'Connor as head of HBO Films Domestic

Theatrical Releasing.

In making the announcement, Colin Callender, president, HBO Films, said,

"Over the last couple years we have had a number of movies which have been

very well received at film festivals around the world. We feel we can bring

HBO's unique marketing and promotional skills to help some of these movies,

which rely on word of mouth, find an audience in the theatrical marketplace. Our

bigger budget event movies will of course continue to be a vital part of the

programming mix available exclusively to HBO subscribers." Callender

continued, "This is not just another distribution deal. We brought on

Dennis O'Connor to fuse HBO's in-house marketing expertise with the highly

regarded New Line/Fine Line team to find new and innovative ways to connect

films with their audience.

"Our experience with Fine Line working towards the August 15th release

of 'American Splendor' has been so productive that it seemed only logical to

further extend this relationship. Mark Ordesky, Russell Schwartz, Steven

Friedlander and Marian Koltai-Levine are a wonderful team." He added,

"To guide this venture for HBO Films we have brought on board a skilled and

seasoned executive in Dennis O'Connor. He combines an intimate working knowledge

of the nuts and bolts of distribution with extensive hands on marketing

expertise. We are thrilled to have him on board as part of the HBO Films


"In a short span, HBO Films has created some of the most widely praised

and memorable movies on the indie scene," said Mark Ordesky, President,

Fine Line Features. "We look forward to combining our strengths to provide

a bold, innovative, and supportive platform for their filmmakers."

The first two HBO Films to be released under the Fine Line Features

arrangement will be "American Splendor", scheduled for August 15,

winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and awarded the International Film

Critics Association Award at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, and Gus Van Sant's

"Elephant," scheduled for October 24, winner of the Palme d'Or and

Best Director at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.

"American Splendor" immerses the viewer in the life and worldview

of underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar: file clerk, working-class

intellectual, obsessive-compulsive collector, and creator of the seminal

autobiographical comic book series "American Splendor." Written and

directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini and produced by Ted Hope,

the film stars Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, James Urbaniak, Judah Friedlander and

Madylin Sweeten, and features Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, Toby Radloff and

Danielle Batone.

In "Elephant," Gus Van Sant takes us inside an American high

school, working with actual high school students to create a powerful portrait

of teenagers in today's volatile world. The story unfolds on an ordinary school

day, filled with class work, football, gossip and socializing. For each of the

students, high school is a different experience: stimulating, friendly,

traumatic, lonely, hard. Diane Keaton and Bill Robinson executive produce; Dany

Wolf produces.

"American Splendor" and "Elephant" follow HBO Films first

successful foray into the theatrical marketplace -- the 2002 release of

"Real Women Have Curves," 2002 Sundance Audience Prize winner, which

grossed $6 million domestically.

At this year's Cannes Film Festival HBO Films unveiled the launch of HBO

FILMS London, a foreign sales company based in London run by Joint Managing

Directors Rosa Bosch and Penny Wolf, which will handle the sale of all HBO Films

in all media in the rest of the world. This latest development provides HBO

Films with the capacity to release its films theatrically worldwide.



Weekend estimates published by Box

Office Mojo show "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" falling

to seventh place this week amid a competitive summer schedule. The film took in

another $4.9 million, bringing it's domestic total to $52.7 million.

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Three major new releases helped push "LXG" down the charts.

"Spy Kids 3D: Game Over," the third installment of the franchise that

has delayed the "Madman" movie from getting made, debuted at #1 with a

$32.5 million take. "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life" made its

bow at #4, falling behind Bruckheimer's "Pirates" and "Bad Boys

II". "Seabiscuit," starring "Spider-Man" actor Tobey

Maguire spent its first weekend in the #5 spot.

Having been in theaters for three weeks, "LXG" still performed

better than a few newer movies. "Johnny English" fell behind the comic

flick in the #8 spot where as teen romance "How To Deal" fell all the

way to #12. Both these movies are in their second week of release.



Peyton Reed has bailed out on the "Fantastic Four" movie according

to Ain't-it-cool-news.

The gossip site got the news directly from Marvel chief Avi Arad, who would not

discuss why the director left, but simply confirms that Reed is off the project.

Arad indicated that a new director would be hired in August or September.

This does not bode well for the December 2004 release the movie has been

targeted at.



From a press release:

Less than a year from their publishing debut, the Future Comics properties

have attracted the eye of some of the top names in Hollywood. As such, Future

Comics' principals Bob Layton, David Michelinie and Dick Giordano have

established a relationship with Metrostop Entertainment and D-No Entertainment

to bring these exciting characters to the big screen, and possibly even the

small screen.

Future Comics is headed by three of this industry's most lauded and colorful

personalities. With careers spanning decades, these veterans have been forging

new and innovative initiatives in the comics industry longer than most of

today's superstars have been around. And now, for the first time in their

illustrious careers, they're doing it for themselves. Future Comics is a labor

of love for all three partners.

Bob Layton, President of Future Comics, said of this new Hollywood

connection: "We got off to a shaky start in Hollywood, by hooking up with

the wrong type of representation for our needs. I have every confidence that the

producers at Metrostop & D-No, with their impressive list of credits, will

have no problem bringing the Future Comics Universe to the screen."

When developing the concepts that would become Future Comics, each comic

series was specifically tailored to translate easily into film, television or

video games. The business plan from day one was to establish intellectual

properties that would attract the largest possible audience. Clearly this

initiative has worked wonders, as evidenced by the fervor all four properties

are currently causing in Hollywood.

Robert Keyghobad, co-founder of Metrostop Entertainment has said of Future

Comics, "When you spend week after week sifting through hundreds of pieces

of material, in search of an original work that speaks to you, and then to come

across more than one from the same source is really amazing. Future Comics is

not only a producer's dream, but a screenwriter's as well. They're a true

diamond in the rough."

The two Future properties leading the charge in Hollywood are "Deathmask"

and "Freemind."

Of "Deathmask," Keyghobad says, "Unlike most comics, 'Deathmask'

is more than your traditional story of good vs. evil. It's filled with magic, a

unique setting and incredibly complex and dark characters."

"Freemind" was the launch vehicle of Future Comics. It's story of

how paraplegic MacKinsey Flint used his genius and technology to create a fully

functioning android body that he could transfer his mind into as part of his

quest for normalcy has resonated with fans since it's inception.

"'Freemind' is an incredibly cerebral and character driven comic that

reflects the expansion of the human spirit," says Keyghobad. "I think

it's a really original comic and that our hero, like Spiderman, is an empathetic

and vulnerable protagonist."

Future's second debut was "Metallix," the story of four adventurers

who share a unique suit of liquid armor. Dubbed the 'Tag-Team Superhero', the

members of Team Metallix transfer the one-and-only suit to one another,

depending on the circumstances. Metal X, the 'smart metal' that the armor is

comprised of, enhances each wearer's own natural abilities. "Metallix"

contains the same unique slant that made Layton and Michelinie's run on Marvel's

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"Iron Man" THE definitive version of that character.

"Peacekeeper" could best be described as "The Lone Ranger

meets James Bond (with a touch of Star Wars)". With much of the details

kept under wraps until its debut, Future is building an industry-wide fervor

over this next release.

While "Deathmask" and "Freemind" are paving the way for

Future Comics translation to the film and television mediums, "Metallix"

and "Peacekeeper" are running close behind. It is a staggering

testament to the talents behind Future Comics that every property developed thus

far is in some stage of development toward another medium.




has drawn the winners in our DVD giveaway. 20th

Century Fox provided five copies of the two-disc set. Without further ado, the recipients

of those free DD DVDs are:

Chris P of Cary, NC

Michael D of Methuen, MA

Craig S of Wheeling, IL

Matt B of Memphis, TN

Ted H of Madison, MS

Thanks to Fox for providing the prizes and to the 2200+ people

who entered the giveaway. The

"Daredevil" DVD is due in stores tomorrow. Look for a review of the

DVD later today on CBR.

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