Music Box launching home video unit

Indie film distributor plans to release 10-12 titles next year

Chicago-based indie film distributor Music Box is launching a home entertainment division.

Music Box, run by co-toppers Ed Arentz and William Schopf, has used MPI Home Video to handle its disc distribution on titles including the French mystery "Tell No One." The new division is expected to release 10-12 titles next year as Music Box takes what Arentz calls "the next step" in expanding the company's operational scope.

But he added that the indie will continue to focus largely on foreign-language titles.

"Home video is probably a little more resistant to foreign language, and we're not expecting that to change," he said. "But we do have some films that we think can get people's attention."

Initial titles set for self-distribution by Music Box Films Home Entertainment include the French romantic comedy "Shall We Kiss" and the French biopic "Seraphine," set for release Feb. 23 and March 23, respectively. Those will be followed by the still-unslotted shiny-disc debuts German romantic drama "Cloud 9" and the book-based Swedish crime thriller "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," with the latter first set to unspool theatrically March 19.

Home entertainment veteran Brian Brown has been appointed head of sales at the new division.

"We're not making this move because we have been unhappy with MPI, by any means," Arentz said. "But we will be closer to the marketplace and be able to understand better what's going to work and what won't. It will help us in making our acquisitions."

Saving on distribution fees will be another plus.

"Smaller films have smaller profit margin, so it's hard to give away a piece of that," Arentz said.

Unlike its main competitor in the foreign-language niche, Sony Pictures Classics, Music Box doesn't focus on foreign-language Oscar prospects when it makes acquisitions or even later when it promotes titles.

"We're not going to play the awards game," Arentz said. "We don't see a clear correlation between a nomination or even a win and its performance."

Founded in 2007, Music Box Films is owned by Southport Music Box, operator of Chicago art house Music Box Theatre.