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Geena Davis is teaming up with ARC Entertainment to launch the Bentonville Film Festival, which will be the first and only film competition in the world to offer guaranteed theatrical, TV, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for its winners.
The festival, which is scheduled to run May 5-9 in Bentonville, Ark., will champion women and diversity in film. The festival is being hosted by ARC Entertainment, Walmart, Coca-Cola and AMC Theatres and will be chaired by Davis, an Academy Award-winning actress and longtime advocate for women. Films that receive the Audience, Jury Selection and Best Family Film awards will receive a distribution agreement with a guaranteed traditional theatrical release on a minimum of 25 screens from AMC Theatres.
“That’s what’s so unheard of about this festival,” Davis tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And I think this idea of guaranteed distribution really sparked the interest of our supporters. AMC thought it was a great idea and something they could do proactively to help.”
The inaugural incarnation will screen some 75 films in competition, ranging from studio premieres to independent features and documentaries. The festival’s advisory board includes Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Randy Jackson, Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Paula Patton, Natalie Portman, Nina Tassler and Shailene Woodley. While individual duties for each advisory board member will vary, they will include garnering support within the entertainment industry, leading mentorship activities, film selection input, festival jury participation, defining success metrics and measuring effectiveness of programs as well as offering broad strategic counsel.
Founded in 2010, ARC is an independent media company that produces, acquires and distributes content.
“I’m honored to collaborate with ARC Entertainment, Walmart, AMC and Coca-Cola to launch this important initiative,” Davis said. “I have been so impressed with the commitment Walmart has made to support women through their Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, which has as one of its goals to source $20 billion from women-owned businesses in the U.S.”
Davis is the founder and chair of the nonprofit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount St. Mary’s College, the only research-based organization working with media and entertainment companies to engage, educate and influence the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping, and create a diverse and inclusive range of female characters for entertainment targeting children 11 and younger. She was recently appointed Special Envoy for Women and Girls in ICT for the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union.
Following the festival, the Bentonville Film Foundation will launch a year-round event calendar to promote women and minority filmmakers, artists, directors and producers at colleges and universities around the country in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which is the official nonprofit partner of the festival.
Film submissions for the festival will open Jan. 15, with films accepted into competition being announced in March.
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