Julia Garner in ‘The Assistant.’

In a further sign of consolidation among independent distributors, Rialto Distribution has closed its Sydney office while continuing to book films into Australian cinemas via its Auckland headquarters.

However the end of the company’s presence in Oz after more than 20 years does not signal any reduction in acquisitions for multiple-platform release.

“We have gained much-needed economies of scale with Kevin Gordon, our Australia/New Zealand sales and distribution manager, selling in directly,” CEO Kelly Rogers tells IF.

“This is going very well and Australian exhibitors are receptive to our strong line-up. We expect to release approximately 30 titles in 2020, mainly digital titles and select strong theatrical films.”

Former Myriad Pictures and Icon Film Distribution marketing executive Lisa Garner, who joined Rialto as Sydney-based head of film in February 2018, expects to soon announce her next venture.

Currently Rialto has a hit with Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson’s The Peanut Butter Falcon, which has grossed $850,000 in Australia/NZ and will reach $1 million.

Rogers describes the drama about a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from a nursing home to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler as an “uplifting, feel-good inter-generational story for a wide demographic.”

The distributor’s top-performing titles across all platforms in the past 12-18 months were Eli Roth’s revenge thriller Death Wish, Bart Freundlich’s US drama After the Wedding, Adrian Noble’s English drama Mrs Lowry and Son, David Palmer and Ant Palmer’s feature doc Spitfire and Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s thriller Kursk.

Last month Rialto and London-based Vertigo Releasing unveiled a partnership to jointly acquire and release films, initially securing 15 titles including The Assistant, The Beach Bum, Bait, Replicas, Line Of Duty, Ghost Of War, The Vigil, The Wretched, JT Leroy and Endings Beginnings.

“We’ve acquired a number of top titles already, which shows that the market is receptive to this multi-territory approach as it offers more than the traditional method,” Rogers says.

‘La Belle Époque.’

The distributor has pre-bought one Aussie film, writer-director Anthony Garland’s debut feature Alternate, which is set in a high-rise office building and follows an overworked young executive who goes back in time to save his girlfriend from being killed.

Casting is underway. Anna Vincent, Ali Mueller and Anita Gou are producing with funding from Screen Australia, the South Australian Film Corporation and the Adelaide Film Festival Fund.

Among the titles on the release slate are:

Australian director Kitty Green’s #MeToo US drama The Assistant, which stars Julia Garner as an aspiring film producer who lands her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. Rogers: “A sublime art house film with a powerhouse performance by Julia Garner.”

French writer-director Nicolas Bedos’ La Belle Époque, which follows Daniel Auteuil and Fanny Ardant as a long-married couple whose relationship is on the rocks until he gets the chance to revisit the moment when he first met her. “An upmarket romantic comedy with particular appeal to older audiences looking for old-fashioned, smart and whimsical entertainment.”

English writer-director Mark Jenkin’s Bait, a drama about a struggling fisherman (Edward Rowe) and the tensions between locals and tourists in a Cornish fishing village, which won the BAFTA for best debut feature.

Love Sarah from another first-time English filmmaker in Eliza Schroeder, the tale of a young woman who wishes to fulfill her mother’s dream of opening a bakery, helped by an old friend and her grandmother, starring Celia Imrie, Shannon Tarbet and Rupert Penry-Jones.

Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables, a thriller about an anti-crime squad in the eastern suburbs of Paris who get caught up in rising tensions among rival gangs, which was nominated for the Oscar for best international feature and has just won the best film prize at France’s César Awards.

Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg and Zac Efron in a comedy about a rebellious stoner writer who is determined to finish the next great American novel.

Eric Bress’ Ghosts of War, a horror movie which follows five US soldiers who encounter a supernatural enemy in France near the end of WW2, starring Brenton Thwaites, Skylar Astin and Kyle Gallner.

Jeffrey Nachmanoff’s Replicas, a sci-fi thriller about a biologist whose family is killed in a car accident and is hell bent on bringing them back, with Keanu Reeves, Alice Eve and Thomas Middleditch.

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  1. When a distrib like Rialto releases to a smallish number of cinemas with limited runs (fact of life), my suggestions are – label those openings as ‘Limited Cinema Window’ to get the cinema-preferring people to start walking to buy a ticket, fast. – When reviews come out, get the reviews linked to the cinema’s webpage.
    Also, build up the demand-film networks, and in advance. They can reach the potential audiences in ways that conventional exhibition does not.

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