In one way it’s good news, but it’s easy to see the crocodiles in the water below.
Yesterday, Kino International and Lorber HT Digital announced their merger. With that, the new Kino-Lorber Inc. becomes one of the largest, most important distributors of indie and foreign films/DVDs in the states. (However, Screendaily.com describes it more as a buy out by Lorber of Kino.)
While two well-regarded indie distributors pooling forces sounds encouraging, the good news dims a bit when you hear the rest. Kino founder Donald Krim said (via NYT’s Dave Itzkoff) that while it wasn’t an “economic necessity” to merge, it did make sense in the current economic malaise, adding that falling DVD sales are affecting everyone from the big studios on down. Presumably each of these two companies too.
But no one gets fired either, according to reports I’ve read, with all staff now at Kino’s current West 39th Street offices.
Lorber HT Digital (nee Koch Lorber, nee Fox Lorber), is lead by CEO Richard Lorber, a man with long experience in the hustings, trying to figure out how it might be possible to distribute indie work on VHS and then DVD. Employing the name Lorber Films for theatrical releases—which recently included a new fave of mine, Alexander Sokurov’s The Sun—the company will continue to cover “art house”, foreign-language, and documentaries.
While Kino has distributed theatrically for some time, Lorber Films had its first feature release this past July with Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s thriller Tony Manero, said to be a fave of 2008’s Cannes Directors Fortnight.
Kino introduced the stateside market to talents including Wong Kar-Wai and Michael Haneke. Kino keeps its name too–Kino International Films–for theatrical releases. This spring the division launches a restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis with some 30 minutes of newly found footage discovered in an archive just last year.
Combined, they expect to release some 60 digital and DVD titles a year, with each division expecting to handle from six to eight pix each for feature distribution.
Considering what straight DVD distributors are facing as sales drop, it might be good move that Lorber is leaving day-to-day operations to Krim and pushing business development, such as figuring a digital strategy and moving further into direct-to-consumer physical distribution.
Let’s just hope it’s a matter of joining forces and not circling wagons.