Anchor Bay wades into theaters

Eyes niche films primarily for fewer than 100 screens

NEW YORK -- Overture Films sister company Anchor Bay is expanding into the theatrical world, forming a label that will release movies in a limited number of theatrical venues.

The unit, dubbed Anchor Bay Films, will release films that essentially come between the core areas of the two companies -- titles smaller than Overture's theatricals but bigger than Anchor Bay's straight-to-DVD titles. Anchor Bay Entertainment president Bill Clark will run the division.

The movies will primarily be a niche theatrical play on fewer than 100 screens, with the possibility of breaking out the occasional film to a wider audience. About 8-10 titles per year are planned; the films will come in addition to Anchor Bay's existing DVD titles.

The distribution world has been consolidating, but execs said that could actually leave room for a new company since exhibitors now have fewer outfits to turn to.

"The market conditions are presenting us with an array of opportunities," Anchor Bay CEO Chris McGurk said.

The expansion also is a way to get broader exposure for Anchor Bay's DVD titles as well as fill the Anchor Bay DVD library and Starz television library more quickly. (Starz is another Overture sister company.)

The movies will come in a host of categories, including genre titles and comedies, Clark said.

Anchor Bay has released the occasional DVD title to theaters, as it did last year with Zak Penn's poker-comedy "The Grand."

Anchor Bay Films is expected to hire a distribution executive, an acquisitions exec and a marketing staffer. The operation will remain independent from Overture, with McGurk -- who is also CEO of Overture -- the lone connection between the companies.