Cinedigm Launches In-Theater Series and Digital Channel for Documentaries

Chris McGurk Headshot - P 2012
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Chris McGurk Headshot - P 2012

Docurama, the first of a planned series of channels, signals a "rebirth" of the company's content strategy, CEO Chris McGurk says.

Cinedigm is launching the first of a series of branded program services called Docurama, built around its library of documentary films, which will play in theaters and on a new digital channel that will stream documentaries around the clock.

Since Chris McGurk became CEO of Cinedigm in early 2011, he has been promising to use technology and the company’s growing movie and TV library to create "OTT" ("over the top") channels that would be branded and play specific genres of programming, from comedy to family-friendly films, as in-theater events.

Docurama builds on the occasional theatrical events the company has put on in the past. They play often on a weeknight, when theater auditoriums are otherwise quiet.

“This is important because it signals the rebirth our content strategy,” McGurk told The Hollywood Reporter. “Instead of one-off events, we want to do a series of events under a brand. This is the first of those.”

Documentaries were a natural place to start for Cinedigm following its acquisition of New Video and high-profile pickups of documentary features in the past year. Among those have been the Oscar-nominated The Invisible War, Hell And Back Again, Detropia and Beauty Is Embarrassing; to go along with classics from the acquired or licensed libraries of about 1,200 titles such as Don’t Look Back and Primary.

On April 22, Cinedigm launches a seven-week, seven-film series of screenings in theaters nationwide of some of its documentaries in the style of a film festival. They will typically play three times a week in each theater before going to VOD, home video and the OTT channel.

The seven films include G-Dog, about a white Jesuit priest in East L.A.; The Fruit Hunters, featuring Bill Pullman in a movie by director Yung Chang; London: The Modern Babylon, in which director Julien Temple gives a history of the city leading to the 2012 Summer Olympics; and Ping Pong,  which follows eight senior citizens as they compete in table tennis tournaments around the world.

Each screening will be preceded by sponsored three-minute shorts from GE Focus Forward showing its vision for the future and how innovation is a catalyst for change.

“Cinedigm is reinventing distribution for the digital age by taking full advantage of the technology now at our fingertips,” said McGurk. He added that Cinedign is still undecided on the length of the windows between release to other platforms.

“We know from years of experience that the best stories are ones you can’t make up. Documentary filmmakers are a passionate breed with equally dedicated fans,” said Steve Savage, co-president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group. “We are providing a most-crucial theatrical release for these great films where it might otherwise be cost prohibitive while activating new and larger audiences.”