E1 to distribute in the U.S.

Small release of Taylor Hackford's Love Ranch will test market's choppy waters. Other titles likely to follow, says Théroux

E1 is set to do the unthinkable — and this summer will test the waters of U.S. theatrical distribution.

Since the company’s inception as a vertically integrated multinational player in the film and television industry, E1 president of filmed entertainment Patrice Théroux had made it clear that the meat-grinding competition of U.S. theatrical was not an option. High on his list of cautionary tales is that of the late great PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, whose international division was an inspiration for E1. PFE’s U.S. theatrical releasing exploits lost millions before the company’s sale to Universal.

Patrice Theroux

But things changed recently when E1 acquired the world rights to Taylor Hackford’s Love Ranch, a high-profile property that has been in limbo thanks to the collapse of U.S. entrepreneur David Bergstein’s Capitol Films, which also controlled ThinkFilm. Love Ranch, which stars Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci, was used as collateral on a loan from Aramid Entertainment Fund; when Bergstein and his partner defaulted on the loan, the film became property of Cayman Islands-based Aramid, effectively nullifying previously established international distribution agreements. E1 stepped in to acquire the rights from Aramid.

Speaking to Playback Daily, Théroux described the film’s U.S. release, scheduled for June, as more of a tactical move than a shift in corporate strategy. ‘We will only go in seven to 10 markets. It’s about profiling the movie, positioning it properly and to help the international sales,’ he says.

Théroux says E1 will likely distribute a few other titles in a similar manner. But he dismisses the notion of E1 backing a wide theatrical release in the U.S. ‘We’re not going to blow our brains out,’ he says.

Love Ranch features Mirren and Pesci in a story inspired by the husband and wife who launched the first legal bordello in Nevada, the Mustang Ranch. The screenplay is by Mark Jacobson. It reunites director Hackford with wife Mirren some 25 years after the film that united them, White Nights.