Exec changes at Red Envelope, HDNet

Naraghi, Kliot and Vicente exit

TORONTO -- In a weekend that saw some high-profile changes in indie film, Netflix's Red Envelope entertainment head Bahman Naraghi and HDNet Films co-founders Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente are leaving their respective companies.

Naraghi confirmed Sunday evening that he was leaving Netflix on "very good terms" and that would be able to talk about his new job in a few weeks. It is expected that he will be leaving imminently to join another company involved in film downloads.

Naraghi helped found the Netflix division, which partners with theatrical and home video retail distributors to purchase titles for its online rental service.

Red Envelope is involved in deals on multiple titles at the Toronto International Film Festival, including the recently announced partnership with IFC to buy "Love Songs" (Les chansons d'amour). The company also said Sunday that they had partnered with Arthouse Films to distribute James Crump's documentary "Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Maplethorpe," which is scheduled to open in New York and Los Angeles by the end of the year.

Kliot and Vicente will leave HDNet by the end of January, and according to parent company 2929 Entertainment's Todd Wagner, they will not be replaced. It will be decided in the next few months whether and how several key employees will be integrated into other divisions of Wagner and Mark Cuban's companies.

HDNet, which specialized in producing low-budget, digitally shot features, will remain only as a label for Wagner and Cuban's digital features.

"The digital revolution is over," Kliot said. "There's no longer any difference between digital and film, whether it's a $1 million or $50 million feature."

Kliot, whose HDNet contract expires this month along with Vicente's, said they will concentrate on projects for their Deutsch/Open City Films with backer Donnie Deutsch and are in talks with a number of partners to establish a new production outfit.

"We started four years ago and accomplished what we set out to do. A lot of films are shot in high-definition, so the reason for the division to exist didn't make as much sense," said Wagner, who also owns 2929 Prods., Magnolia Pictures and Magnolia Home Entertainment.

"A lot of what we have, frankly, are (duplicate) resources," he said.

2929 will continue making films with $10 million-$40 million budgets, and smaller films will be inched up to the $3 million-$5 million range and overseen by 2929 head Marc Butan and Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles.

"We just rolled HDNet Films into 2929," Cuban said. "We plan on increasing the number of productions, and we will continue to do HD films in a big way. (The) HDNet Movies (channel) will need HD films, so there will be plenty. It's not a cutback"

HDNet has provided day-and-date releasing in theaters coinciding with an airing on HDNet Movies, but its films have mostly underperformed at the boxoffice. The day-and-date program, quietly renamed "Sneak Preview" this year, will continue to operate with about four to five features annually.

One title Wagner expects will be included is Brian De Palma's harrowing $5 million Iraq War film "Redacted," which won the Silver Lion for best director during the weekend at the Venice Film Festival. The film is tentatively set for an early 2008 day-and-date release with a possible Oscar-qualifying theatrical run.
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