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Facets Video Ups Output on DVD Strength

11 Oct, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Spurred by soaring DVD sales, Facets Video, a distributor of mostly foreign and art-house videos, has launched two new video labels that will nearly triple its annual output.

The Accent Cinema and Cinemateca labels will each release between 18 and 24 titles a year under the auspices of industry veteran Peter Marai, a Hungarian native who has distributed foreign films, both to theaters and on video, for more than two decades.

Accent Cinema will release films, particularly high-profile festival circuit titles, from around the world, with an emphasis on Europe. The first release is It All Starts Today, directed by acclaimed French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier and pegged for Nov. 26 release on DVD and VHS.

Cinemateca will focus on Spanish-language art-house films, chiefly from Spain and Latin America. The inaugural release will be Camila, written and directed by Argentine filmmaker Mar?a Luisa Bemberg and nominated for a best foreign film Oscar.

Ray Privett, coordinator of the Facets Video line, concedes the plan to triple the company's video output is a “bold move,” but he maintains the market for foreign and art-house films is growing, particularly with the advent of DVD and the ability to include both the original and an English-language track on the same disc.

“There are always films out there that slip through the cracks, and no big company deals with them,” he said. “But that doesn't mean they're not fantastic films and there aren't American audiences waiting to see them. We do what we can do to broaden the horizon of what's available in the marketplace.”

Privett said with buy rates among DVD households significantly higher than they ever were for VHS, Facets wants to “capitalize on the new format.”

“We've already done four or five times as many DVDs as last year,” he said. “The ratio of DVD sales versus VHS sales is just astronomical.”

It's not just on the consumer side, he noted.

“From what our salespeople tell me, on a lot of these nonmainstream films, a lot of video buyers will only buy the DVD,” Privett said.

Upcoming Accent Cinema releases include the award-winning Italian film Not of This World and the Slovenian film When I Close My Eyes, which Chicago magazine called “an unexpected treasure.”

Future Cinemateca releases include the Argentinian film Spoils of War and the documentary Great Day in Havana, about Cuban music.

Privett has particularly high hopes for Cinemateca, noting that Spanish-language films have done quite well recently in the American marketplace, including the Mexican films Amores Perros, Y Tu Mamá Tambi?n and The Devil's Backbone.

“There's a massive Spanish-speaking population in the United States, but with few exceptions this audience has been neglected in the past,” Privett said. “So part of what we are doing is paying attention to one of the great constituencies of our country.”

Privett said Cinemateca releases will be in the same vein as “the big titles you've seen in the past few years -- Amores Perros, Y Tu Mamá Tambi?n -- in that tradition. I don't know if we'll be playing the same financial ballpark as them, but these are films that sort of slipped in somehow. We're going to release films like these on a regular basis.”

Label head Marai grew up in Argentina and has lived in Mexico. He has created such companies as Connoisseur Video, Meridian Video and Condor Media. He has distributed films directed by such international heavyweights as Fellini (Juliet of the Spirits), Godard (Breathless), Buñuel (Los Olvidados) and Antonioni (Red Desert).

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