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Newcomer Ardustry Headed by Veterans

10 Jan, 2003 By: Joan Villa

Ardustry Home Entertainment may be a new company, but it's headed by video veterans who hope to round up at least two new film releases each month to spice up an established line of more than 4,000 titles acquired from the former Unapix Entertainment.

The company will launch its first slate of 15 titles from the Unapix library Feb. 25 (prebook Feb. 4) at $9.98 each on both DVD and VHS.

The package includes several films new to DVD, including Oxygen, starring Maura Tierney; Outrage, with Antonio Banderas; Phantom of the Opera, starring Asia Argento; Devil in the Flesh 2; Six Ways to Sunday; and Good Luck, featuring Gregory Hines and Vincent D'Onofrio. Seven special interest titles are also in the lineup: Earthscapes, The Science of Magic, Above All Else: The Everest Dream, Tread/Retread, Super Racers, The American Bullfighter and The Italians.

Ardustry CEO Cheryl A. Freeman said the company will court producers and pursue new product to bring to video this year. Since forming Sept. 16, Ardustry has reviewed 150 films and is in negotiations for the rights to 30 of them, while also forming direct relationships with major retailers, Freeman said.

“We're not in the entertainment business. We're in the distribution business, and we want to provide the consumer what they want,” explained Freeman, who said she encourages her staff to suggest new products and strategies. “I don't tell my sales staff what we're selling; they come back and tell me ‘This is what the market demands, and these are the price points we need to be at.’

In May, the supplier will begin a monthly pattern of releasing two new-to-video titles: the mystery thriller Other Voices, with David Aaron Baker, Peter Gallagher, Mary McCormack, Rob Morrow, Campbell Scott and Stockard Channing; and the family film My Brother the Pig, starring Scarlett Johansson and Judge Reinhold. Both will be priced around $40 for VHS rental and $24.98 on DVD, she said.

Every other month, Ardustry will release eight new-to-DVD titles from its library, she added.

Freeman is confident Ardustry will boost its release schedule beyond two new titles a month in 2004, based on a track record of successful partnerships with producers. As the former CFO of Unapix, Freeman was asked by the lender to stay on when the studio filed for bankruptcy in November 2000, to oversee the liquidation of assets. In the process, the Unapix library was sold, and Freeman established strong relationships with producers who received royalties throughout the two-year bankruptcy process she supervised.

She asked Jerry Smallwood, the president of Unapix label A-Pix Entertainment, to join Ardustry as SVP of sales; she brought in three former A-pix salespeople “who know the product inside and out”; and she assembled a staff familiar with distribution to man the supplier's Encino, Calif., headquarters.

The company is seeking “what the marketplace is demanding,” she said -- all genres, including family, urban and Latino. Although not a theatrical distribution company, Ardustry will find partners for movie-house play if it's right for the film and the producer.

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