Summit a willing Participant

Distributor pacts to release indie producer's titles in U.S. market

Summit and Participant have inked a five-year deal that will see the distributor release and potentially co-finance a group of Participant projects.

Under the deal, the Rob Friedman-Patrick Wachsberger outfit will release several Participant films each year, with Participant gaining the automatic option, or put, to release any movie it chooses through Summit. The company will handle worldwide rights for those titles, including television, home video and overseas theatrical, with the deal running through 2013.

The pact is nonexclusive, but Participant execs said they will distribute all their films through Summit unless a project they're producing is owned by another studio. Finished films acquired by Participant — an area in which the company wants to expand — also will go through the Summit deal.

The deal will offer Participant the holy grail of U.S. distribution at a time when theatrical releasing for indie production companies is more challenging than ever before.

"We're masters of our own destiny," Participant CEO Jim Berk said. "What this means is that we no longer need to rely on a studio or external financing to distribute our movies."

The pact also provides for Summit to potentially co-finance select Participant projects.

Participant, which has about 30 projects in development, produces pictures mainly in the prestige and political arenas; the company has had hits with such films as "An Inconvenient Truth" and "The Visitor" and is behind the upcoming Jamie Foxx drama "The Soloist."

Summit is known more for broadly commercial films like those in the "Twilight" franchise.

Participant owns an equity stake in Summit. (partialdiff)