EXCLUSIVE: International sales vet Simon Crowe, financier Matthew Joynes and former Kaleidoscope executive Michael Chapman are setting up new UK/Ireland distribution company Blue Finch Film Releasing.

The label will look to pick up commercially-oriented and cast-driven movies and is aiming to release up to 20 pics per year, including a select number of theatrical titles.

Officially launching in September, the company is in discussions about first movies on the slate. I understand there are also advanced conversations with at least one other established sales and finance outfit who could join the Blue Finch fold.

Chapman, who recently left UK distributor Kaleidoscope after six years, will serve as COO while Crowe will be acting CEO. The latter will continue to run his sales outfit SC Films.

Well-liked sales vet Crowe set up SC Films with financier Joynes in 2008. The company has ploughed a furrow in animation working on movies such as The Reef and Yellowbird as well as genre titles such as Tower Block and Cockneys Vs Zombies. Current pics include White Fang and The Dust Walker. Crowe previously served as Head of Sales at Icon Entertainment International and Capitol Films where he sold movies including Mel Gibsons The Passion Of The Christ and thriller Lucky Number Slevin.

Chapman most recently served as acquisitions and development manager at Kaleidoscope, where he worked on movies including Ewan McGregor and Helena Bonham Carter-voiced animation The Land Of Sometimes, well-received doc The Wolfpack and animation Top Cat Begins, which sold to Warner Bros in UK.

Joynes, a former lawyer working in the banking and entertainment sector, also has investments in mobile gaming firm Gamevice and Red Square TV.

Chapman commented, “I am very excited to be working on this new venture with both Simon and Matthew. We believe there is space for a nimble and savvy distributor in the current market and look forward to cementing strategic partnerships and making further announcements over the coming months.”

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Crowe added, “I have been working in the international and specifically UK film market for more than 20 years. The recent shift to a digital business has been seismic, but also a game-changer. I believe there are huge opportunities ahead for a smart and well-resourced company. I am looking forward to the challenges ahead and hoping that Blue Finch is only the start of continued expansion over the next few years.”

The UK distribution space can be highly lucrative for the majors but is also unforgiving for independents, many of whom are experiencing consolidation. Icon was the most recent indie distributor to go under in the expensive and polarized landscape but most of the leading firms are less acquisitive than in recent years. The Works rebooted in summer 2017 but has been virtually silent since. Blue Finch will be hoping to exploit a gap in the market and to tap into digital and new-model opportunities.

Distribution executives I have spoken to in recent days have talked about the opportunity for new players to access movies they wouldnt have had a chance at getting in years past. Kaleidoscope, the home ent specialist which acquired the Icon library, nabbed Jake Gyllenhaal-Carey Mulligan Cannes critical hit Wildlife, for example, from FilmNation earlier this year. The company is due to release it on 100 screens this fall after its London Film Festival bow. The same company made Dog Days its second-biggest ever theatrical release on more than 220 screens two weekends ago. But in a sign of how bruising the theatrical market remains, the film only made £60,000.

Meanwhile, former Arrow Films acquisitions executive Tom Stewart, who left Arrow following its recent restructure, is joining forces with UK sales label Parkland to distribute a small number of titles. Bulldog and Park Circus are among those growing their distribution footprints and there is also chatter about at least one more company emerging soon in the UK indie distribution space.

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