Former Hopscotch Films and eOne colleagues Troy Lum and Jason Hernandez have partnered to launch a new distribution company, Kismet, with a stated commitment to local films and an international slate that includes Palme d’Or winner Titane.

Joining Julia Ducournau’s horror-thriller are other acquisitions from Cannes like Mamoru Hosoda’s sci-fi anime Belle and Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s debut feature, French romance Anaïs in Love.

Kismet titles also include Zach Braff’s A Good Person, starring Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman; Nick Cassavettes’ Cus and Mike; Queen Bees, featuring Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margret and Christopher Lloyd; Flore Vasseur’s Bigger Than Us, produced by Marion Cotillard; Jean-Albert Lievre’s Whale Nation and Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby, released last weekend.

Lum is the founder of Hopscotch Films and Hopscotch Features, and former managing director of eOne Asia Pacific, while Hernandez is eOne’s former head of theatrical sales ANZ.

Joining them in the company to head acquisitions is Stacy Glassgold, former vice president of international sales at XYZ Films.

Lum tells IF Kismet has already had an encouraging response from exhibition, suppliers, sales agents and producers. Eddie Tamir’s Moving Story is a major investor, and it has already inked an exclusive agreement with Sony Pictures for home entertainment and a multi-year Pay 1 output deal with Foxtel.

Kismet will be driven by three pillars – films that have: an uplifting or positive message, whether in storytelling or their journey to screen; a call to action or social impact; or that are are auteur-driven. The titles it takes on will be carefully selected.

“At the height of eOne, we were releasing close to 50 films a year across home entertainment and theatrical. I missed the curatorial approach that I had when I started Hopscotch,” Lum says.

However, a curated slate doesn’t mean small films for small audiences; Lum says it’s a “broad church” of films that fit into Kismet’s vision. Titles he’s worked on before, like Mao’s Last Dancer and The Sapphires, would be at home at the distributor.

The company also intends to be innovative with its release strategies and pathways to audience. Lum and Hernandez are currently readying a cinema subscription club for 2022, offering exclusive screenings with talent Q&As, live talks, performances, and after-party events.

While Kismet will work across the board, Lum notes he has a soft spot for independent film in the cinema.

“I think there’s a certain kind of cinema that really demands a big screen experience.

“Certainly at Kismet that’s what we want to do… Some films should be seen on a big screen. Some films need to be seen with a community of people.”

The launch of Kismet also follows the recent announcement of Lum’s other new venture, production company Brouhaha Entertainment, with his partner at Hopscotch Features, Andrew Mason, and UK producer Gabriella Tana (Philomena).

The two businesses will enter into a strategic alliance, with Kismet set to distribute some films from the Brouhaha slate such as Kate Dennis’ All That I Am, and Lee Tamahori’s The Convert.

Other local projects to be distributed by Kismet include Nick Giannopoulos’ Wogboys Forever and and Mark Hartley’s The Girl At the Window.

“We have a commitment to local cinema,” Lum says.

“In fact, I want to be releasing three to four local films a year. Some of that we will be producing ourselves, and some I’ll want access to other producers. We’re open for business in terms of local films and wanting to be a player, not just in releasing, but as support in production and development as well. We can tick all those boxes.

“The relationship with Brouhaha allows to have access to talent and to great IP. There’s a way these two businesses work hand-in-hand.”

Most of all, Lum says both Kismet and Brouhaha will be flexible and nimble, noting this is how businesses increasingly need to operate to survive across the shifting markets in both production and distribution.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all anymore, and on the independent side, even more so. We have to be nimble. We have to be flexible because the market is challenging. Unless we adapt, we’re not going to survive.

“I’m a big believer in the independent film market surviving, because I think that, over the years, has produced the best kind of films.”

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