Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

How an indie filmmaker cut out the middleman

To get her documentary Ten9Eight into theaters, Mary Mazzio made a pioneering deal with movie chain AMC.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Patricia B. Gray

Mary Mazzio on the set of Ten9Eight in New York City.
7 business plan superstars
After winning competitions with their business plans, these 7 ventures turned their paper visions into thriving companies.

(Fortune Small Business) -- A dozen inner-city teens face off during a business plan competition in Ten9Eight: Shoot for the Moon, the latest documentary from filmmaker Mary Mazzio.

From the high school athlete who creates photochromatic face shields for football players to the 15-year-old animal lover who decides to sell vegetarian dog treats after learning that red meat may cause canine cancer, these budding business owners are both clever and heartbreakingly earnest.

The film's boldest entrepreneurial moves, however, happened off camera, where filmmaker Mazzio explored unorthodox ways to bring her movie to the masses.

Traditionally, film distribution companies have acted as Hollywood's middlemen, matching up new movies with theaters. But after a short-lived documentary boom following the 2004 release of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, the nonfiction film market slumped. Many distributors are awash in red ink; others have gone out of business.

So Mazzio decided to try a different strategy. She independently shopped Ten9Eight to AMC, the second largest movie chain in North America. And in October they inked a deal: Ten9Eight opened Nov. 12 at 15 of the chain's biggest theaters, in cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and Washington, D.C.

"The film is excellent," says Robert J. Lenihan, president of programming for AMC. "We think it conveys a positive message that will be well received by our audience."

Lenihan says AMC's standalone deal with Mazzio is a first for the chain -- and it may be a first for Hollywood too.

"Every filmmaker is complaining about the distribution bottleneck," Mazzio says. "I decided if I couldn't get through it, I'd go around it."

AMC will be watching box-office receipts for Ten9Eight. If the film attracts a big audience, the chain will consider showing it in more theaters.

Ten9Eight is the fourth major movie for Mazzio, whose production company, 50 Eggs, is based in Wellesley, Mass. (Her pre-film career also required tenacity: Mazzio rowed for the U.S. in the 1992 Olympic Games.) She's probably best known for her 2004 documentary Lemonade Stories, which chronicles the impact mothers of successful entrepreneurs had on their children, including Virgin Atlantic's Richard Branson, Home Depot's (HD, Fortune 500) Arthur Blank and Def Jam's Russell Simmons.  To top of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

QMy dream is to launch my own business someday. Now that it's time to choose a major, I'm debating if I should major in entrepreneurial studies or major in engineering to acquire a set of skills first. Is majoring in entrepreneurship a good choice? More
Get Answer
- Spate, Orange, Calif.
Top luxurious hotel suites for business travelers For many people, you can't put a price on comfort. More
Million-dollar startups: These firms scored big sales their first year Their first year in business, these companies generated $1 million in sales. More
The 10 best states for retirees It might be worth moving to a new place to find your dream retirement home. Check out these 10 states. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play