Sundance ’16: WNET launches theatrical imprint

The parent company of New York public television stations Thirteen and WLUW21 has launched American Masters Pictures, with films such as Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You debuting at Sundance. (Pictured: 'American Masters' EP Michael Kantor)
January 25, 2016

WNET, the parent company of New York public television stations Thirteen and WLUW21, has officially launched its own theatrical imprint, American Masters Pictures.

The imprint houses documentaries coproduced for the ‘American Masters’ series which airs across public television stations in the U.S. via PBS and is exec produced by Michael Kantor (pictured). The first three films under the banner are enjoying their world premieres at Sundance, with Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady‘s Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You opening on the first day of the fest, Louis Black and Karen Bernstein‘s Richard Linklater – dream is destiny premiering tomorrow (January 26), as well as Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack‘s Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise.

The docs will have their exclusive U.S. broadcast premieres on the ‘American Masters’ strand. Non-broadcast rights for all of the films are still available. Cinetic Media negotiated the deal on behalf of the Linklater filmmakers.

“I’m thrilled to launch American Masters Pictures at Sundance Film Festival, the premier festival for indie films. There is a huge appetite for documentary films now, and we want to reach as many people as possible,” said Kantor in a statement. “Our goal is to support filmmakers and their films every step of the way. We can help them tailor their distribution strategies from film festivals to limited theatrical release, broadcast, online, DVD, VOD, OTT and everywhere viewers can see our incredible films.”

“When Michael approached me with the idea for American Masters Pictures, I thought it was a natural progression for the series, which has always worked with independent filmmakers,” said Stephen Segaller, vice president of programming at WNET. “Our commitment to the independent film community is real and we want it to continue to thrive.”

Other films under the new imprint currently making the rounds on the festival circuit or in limited release include Nancy Buirski’s By Sidney Lumet and Amy Berg‘s Janis: Little Girl Blue. Films currently in production include Hedy: The Untold Story of Actress & Inventor Hedy Lamarr (w/t) directed by Alexandra Dean and Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me directed by Sam Pollard.

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