A Landmark Business, moderated by indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez, brought together representatives from all aspects of Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's vertically integrated filmmaking factory, now called Wagner/Cuban Companies: Ted Mundorff, film buyer for Landmark Theaters; Tom Quinn, acquisition exec for Magnolia Pictures; Eammon Bowles, President of Magnolia; Elizabeth Glass, buyer for HD Net and HDNet Movies; Bill Banowsky, head of the new distribution initiative, Truly Indie; and Wagner himself, who easily stole the show by spouting his party's platform. Wagner's rhetoric was probably pre-packaged but undeniably convincing nonetheless.
Wagner/Cuban's various distribution revolutions were the order of the day. In all the hype surrounding the conglomerate's groundbreaking day/date strategy, their equally ballsy Truly Indie program has been somewhat overlooked. Banowsky described it as a "producer empowered distribution alternative." The concept came from the exhibition sector: Landmark shows a couple hundred films on its 300 screens a year, but half of its profits come from about 20 titles. In fact, the bottom 50-70 films, as Banowsky explained it, actually lose money for the chain. So the various sectors of the company got together and came up with Truly Indie, which essentially allows producers to pay a single fee to rent space at a Landmark Theater, and simultaneously hire Truly Indie to market and promote their film. It's sort of a second (last?) chance, for filmmakers who, say, come off the festival circuit without a viable theatrical option. Truly Indie will allow such filmmakers to buy themselves a brief theatrical run, and still have the opportunity to cash in on the DVD rights. Wagner elaborates on the mission:
"We should be listening to the voice of independent cinema. I'd go to fests like this one [and hear filmmakers say], "I'm shut out of the system!" So what we're trying to do is open up the system. If you believe in your product, you should have a chance to release it."
The conversation soon, predictably, turned to day/date, and the company men are, rightfully, defensive. Here's where the Wagner quips really start to heat up. Some excerpts after the jump.