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Theater Chain, Redford Plan 'Quality' Films

October 13, 1987|DEBORAH CAULFIELD | Times Staff Writer

Robert Redford and North America's largest motion-picture theater chain announced Monday a new venture intended to streamline the production and distribution of "quality" low-budget motion pictures.

The venture, which could spend as much as $30 million over the next five years making movies, promises to open the doors of both movie production and exhibition to film makers who frequently work outside the major Hollywood studios.

It also promises to enhance the growing stature of the fast-growing Toronto-based Cineplex Odeon motion-picture theater chain as a financier of sophisticated motion pictures that have been shunned by the Hollywood mainstream studios.

At a news conference held at Le Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood, the publicity-shy Redford--flanked by Garth Drabinsky, chief executive of the Cineplex chain--announced the formation of Northfork Productions Inc., a joint venture between the actor's Wildwood film production company and the Cineplex chain.

"We're doing something I've wanted to do for a long time," Redford said, "and that is to refine the process of production-to-exhibition--to free it of the clutter of . . . agents, managers, lawyers and other service accounts. We plan to make, on a very small scale, low-budget films where you can take more chances at less financial risk."

Under the terms of the Northfork five-year agreement for a minimum of five pictures, Redford will be involved in some films, but not all, as either producer, director or both. He, however, ruled out, for now, appearing in any of the films.

Cineplex, which has 1,515 screens in the United States and Canada, will finance the films, which will have production budgets no higher than $6 million, Drabinsky said.

(Prior to its new pact with Redford, Cineplex funded the production of the upcoming Joanne Woodward film, "The Glass Menagerie," directed by Paul Newman, and is co-producing Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ.")

Creatively, Redford said, Northfork will focus on producing films about "American stories."

As an example, Redford mentioned "The River Runs Through It," a film about Canadians who migrate south to Montana (based on the book by Norman McLean) as one of Northfork's first projects. Redford said he wants to film "River" next summer in Montana.

When pressed for more details about "River," Redford joked: "This will make some really great copy--it's about fly fishing." He added: "Only a company like Northfork would make a film like that."

Redford took pains to distance Northfork from his Sundance Institute, which, among other activities, runs a major independent film festival each winter at Park City, Utah, and a prestigious summer workshop series for neophyte film makers.

"Sundance is nonprofit," Redford said, "and Northfork, of course, is a commercial endeavor."

But Redford did not rule out the possibility that some Sundance projects could end up as Northfork productions. At least four movies developed under Sundance guidance were later released by major distributors, including "Desert Bloom" (Columbia) and "El Norte" (Island Alive).

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