Bruce Willis in ‘Death Wish.’

Kelly Rogers’ Rialto Distribution is ramping up its release slate after opening a Sydney office headed by Lisa Garner.

The distributor is keen to acquire Aussie films, capitalising on Garner’s network of contacts and experience when she served as head of marketing for Icon Film Distribution.

Its most recent Aussie release was Gillian Armstrong’s feature documentary Women He’s Undressed in 2015.

As sales and marketing director, Australia, Garner takes over from Backlot Films, which has represented Rialto for the past 18 months following the departure of general manager Mike Vile.

The arrangement with Backlot ends on March 30 but Garner already is working on the March 8 launch of Death Wish, director Eli Roth’s reimagining of the 1974 revenge thriller which starred Charles Bronson and led to four sequels.

Bruce Willis stars as a Chicago surgeon who sets out for revenge after his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home in the film which opens in the US on March 2 via MGM.

Rogers thanked Backlot’s Tony Ianiro and Mark D’Angelo for their efforts on such releases as Personal Shopper, God’s Own Country, The Innocents and A Man called Ove.

“We believe the time is right for the Rialto brand to develop a stronger presence in the Australian marketplace,” he tells IF. “Lisa gives us a notch up and we can be more confident in acquisitions, including select Australian films.

“With the shifts in the market in the past few years we have become a bit more eclectic, releasing a mix of art house films and titles with  broader appeal.”

Foxtel’s decision to drop SBS’s World Movies last month was a blow to independent distributors, including Rialto, but Rogers says he is talking to a number of online platforms as well as continuing to release films on DVD and digital.

Garner began her career in casting and talent management with Liz Mullinar and the late June Cann. After leaving Icon she moved to Los Angeles as senior vice president of marketing for Myriad Pictures.

Rialto’s upcoming slate includes writer-director Stéphane Robelin’s comedy Mr Stein Goes Online, which stars Pierre Richard, Yaniss Lespert and Fanny Valette and will premiere at the Alliance Française French Film Festival in March.

Animated family adventure The Little Vampire 3D will be released in April as an alternate content title.

The No.1 film in New Zealand last weekend, Broken is a Maori drama which follows a former gang leader Logan (Josh Calles) whose daughter is murdered by a rival gang, forcing him to choose between vengeance and forgiveness.

The first feature directed by pastor Tarry Mortlock, it is a modern interpretation of a true story about a girl killed by a raiding party in the 1800s.

Sheila Hancock plays an elderly woman who, in the aftermath of the death of her controlling husband, decides to fulfil a long-held dream of climbing a Scottish mountain in writer-director Simon Hunter’s Edie.

Writer-director David Freyne’s The Cured stars Ellen Page, Peter Campion, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor in a thriller about once-infected zombies who are cured but subject to discrimination by society and their own families.

One of the critical hits of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, Dominic Savage’s The Escape features Gemma Arterton as an unhappy wife and mother who embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

After spending 30 years in distribution, Rogers says the key to surviving and thriving in a highly competitive business is a passion for films and being fiscally responsible.

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