CinemaNX gets innovative with 'Welles'

Pioneering distribution plan includes exclusive DVD rollout

LONDON -- Isle of Man production and finance banner CinemaNX kept its promise made in Cannes this year to come up with innovative distribution deals by sealing pacts to put "Me and Orson Welles" in front of British audiences.

The project, starring Zac Efron, Claire Danes and introducing Christian McKay as Orson Welles, is directed by Richard Linklater and is set to open here in early December.

CinemaNX said Tuesday it has pacted with Warner Bros. Entertainment U.K. to roll the film out in theaters on around 180 screens. Warner Bros. will partner on other distribution platforms including video-on-demand and pay and free television, CinemaNX said. CinemaNX sealed a deal with Freestyle Releasing in September.

But the Isle of Man funder also said it has struck a deal with retail giant Tesco to give its stores exclusive DVD rights for 12 months on the title from Easter 2010.

The retalier has pledged to heavily promote the film in-store by giving prominent shelf space to both the tie-in novel and soundtrack ahead of the theatrical release.

"As in the U.S., we have what we feel is an exciting new approach to film distribution, one which we hope will lead the way for many others to come," said NX chairman Steve Christian.

Tesco entertainment category director Rob Salter believes the fresh approach to film distribution is here to stay. "NX have devised a model that not only allows us to enjoy exclusive distribution rights but also gives all the partners in the distribution process the unique opportunity to cross-promote titles in a way that has previously eluded us," he said.

His Tesco division struck a similar deal on DreamWorks' "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa."

NX has previously announced a revenue sharing deal with exhibitor Vue Cinemas for the pair to work closely together to promote NX titles, which gives the exhibitor a long-term interest in NX funded titles they jointly handle.

"Welles" is set in the New York theater world and details the story of a teenage student who lucks his way into a minor role in the legendary 1937 Mercury Theater production of "Julius Caesar," directed by a young Welles. The screenplay is penned by Holly Gent Palmo and Vince Palmo and based on Robert Kaplow's novel of the same name.

CinemaNX and Detour Filmproduction backed the project.