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Searchlight Invites Academy to Theaters

The Fox art-house arm will show its next film to awards voters at special screenings.

October 03, 2003|Lorenza Munoz | Times Staff Writer

Responding to restrictions on the distribution of DVDs and videos during Oscar season, Fox Searchlight Pictures said Thursday that it would get its next film seen by awards voters the old-fashioned way: in theaters.

Searchlight, the art-house arm of 20th Century Fox, plans a heavy schedule of screenings starting next week of its November release, "In America."

The company said it would show the film every Thursday night at four Los Angeles theaters, including the upscale Arclight in Hollywood. The screenings, free to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Hollywood guild members, will be held every week until the Nov. 26 national release of the immigrant drama directed by Jim Sheridan.

The move follows a decision by the Motion Picture Assn. of America this week to ban all Academy "screeners" -- DVDs or videos of a film sent to awards voters before it is regularly available on such media. Many in the independent film world criticized the ban, saying it would hurt smaller films that academy members often watched at home.

"We have a beautiful movie and we need to make sure people can see it," said Peter Rice, head of Fox Searchlight. "We have faith that the members will take this unique opportunity to see [the film] and give it the recognition we believe it deserves."

Searchlight, one of the more successful studio art-house divisions with such hits this year as "Bend It Like Beckham" and "28 Days Later," is so far the only independent subsidiary to take this approach to the ban. On Wednesday, executives of all seven studio art-house divisions, except Fox Searchlight, met to discuss alternatives to the ban.

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