AMC, Regal to Launch New Distribution Company: Open Road

Exclusive: The hush-hush distribution company seeks to break the mold on the current model, and offer exhibitors some new product

Tom Ortenberg will be heading up a new distribution company, tentatively called Open Road, whose official debut should be announced within a week or two.

The company will be called Open Road, I am told by a knowledgeable individual (but one other source says this is not yet definitive),  and will be a joint venture between AMC and Regal, two of the biggest theater chains in the country.

The company represents a new step in the evolution of distribution. As the number of distributors has dwindled, the exhibitors are taking matters into their own hands.

AMC and Regal see an opportunity to extend traditional film distribution as it has been left untended by the major studios. Regal is a huge chain with 6,000 screens  theaters; AMC , the second-largest chain in the country, has more than 5,000 screens in its network.

The new distribution company does not intend to restrict distribution to its own exhibitor-owners, and have hired Ortenberg as a credible executive with vast experience in the world of indie cinema.

I ran into Ortenberg at the Spirit Awards a week ago, and he explained that there will be a clear separation between his distribution entity (which at the time didn’t have a name) and any exhibition work at AMC and Regal.

The two chains are owned respectively by JP Morgan, hedge fund Apollo Management, and the Carlyle Group, and the latter by Philip Anschutz. Lee Solomon, the former COO of The Weinstein Company, has been instrumental in making the deal, recruiting Ortenberg – a former Weinstein executive – and helping secure the credit facility.

No word yet on the size of the facility, but with billionaire Anschutz and a hedge fund involved, this is unlikely to be a major obstacle.

Ortenberg told me recently that the aim of the company is to distribute not only small independent films but larger, more commercial films too.

I am told that the company will be prepared to distribute as widely as 2,500 to 3,000 theaters.

One more rumor: I’m hearing they’re talking to Dylan Wilcox, the head of worldwide acquisitions at Focus Features, to join Open Road.