Lynch moves 'Inland' to self-distribution

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NEW YORK -- After a flurry of rumors pointing to just about every indie studio in the business, director David Lynch has worked out a deal with French producers Studio Canal to self-distribute his three-hour epic digital video feature "Inland Empire," in the U.S. and Canada. Producer Mary Sweeney said the plan will "explore a new model of distribution."

Lynch will work with well-known theatrical and home video partners to launch his epic fever dream of a film, retaining all rights to the low-budget project in each service deal. The partnerships will be announced within the next week. A release slated before the end of the year, as is an awards season campaign for star and co-producer Laura Dern.

"Basically we learned a lot from our experiences with 'The Straight Story' and 'Mulholland Drive,'" said Sweeney. "There was a lot spent on P&A. Those experiences, the new technologies of digital distribution available today, along with David's completely avant-garde attitude towards life make this the right film at the right time for this approach."

Sweeney notes that both digital and transferred 35mm masters of the film are available, so several options are open to get the film to the public via digital and conventional methods.

"Empire," which had its premiere at the Venice International Film Festival as Lynch picked up a Golden Lion lifetime achievement award, has sharply divided critics both abroad and at its New York Film Festival North American premiere. The three-years-in-the-making feature begins with two interwoven stories of an actress, played by Dern, who is making an onscreen comeback in a Southern melodrama she's filming called "High in Blue Tomorrows." But the film soon branches off to follow a third abused and abusive character also played by Dern. "I figure I have at least three roles, maybe a few more," she said in an interview.

Each plotline deals with issues of betrayal in relationships, but the film soon veers off those tracks as it showcases musical dance sequences, sitcom-style family scenes featuring people with rabbit heads and dramatic episodes with actors speaking Polish.

In an interview after a NYFF press screening last Friday, Lynch said "people are thinking of new ways to begin a film, new ways of shooting, new ways of post production, and you've got to come up with new ways of distribution."

He added facetiously that his target audience is "14-year-old girls in the Midwest ... I would like it to be a summer blockbuster, but I'm realistic."
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