Families step aside on Homolka film
'They are not the censor police'
Distribution in Canada now likely
Toronto Star, RICK WESTHEAD, BUSINESS REPORTER, Oct. 13, 2005
The families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy won't try to block the release of Karla, a film about the slayings of the teens, paving the way for the film's Canadian distribution.
"The families recognize that they are not the censor police," Tim Danson, a lawyer for the French and Mahaffy families, told the Toronto Star. "They understand that people have a constitutional right to make a movie or write a book."
The Hollywood film company behind the controversial movie, depicting the horrific murders by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, says it's close to signing a contract with a distributor that would get the picture into Canadian theatres.
Quantum Entertainment president Michael Sellers said in an interview yesterday that he is in final-stage negotiations with a distributor in Montreal.
Sellers said the decision by the French and Mahaffy families marks "another hurdle that's been overcome in getting this movie made."
Danson said he attended a private screening of Karla in a Toronto hotel suite two weeks ago. The lawyer said he raised concerns that any nude scenes depicting the teenaged victims or visual depictions of their murders may constitute child pornography.
Quantum agreed to remove several scenes including one eight-frame shot that depicted nudity, Danson said. A director's cut is unlikely, Sellers said.
While the film won't feature nudity or visual depictions of the murders of the teenaged girls, a DVD version to be released next spring will likely include deleted scenes such as clips of the movie version of Bernardo's trial and his relationship with Homolka, Sellers said.
While Danson said that the French and Mahaffy families, who have not seen the film, would prefer a movie wasn't made about their daughters' kidnapping and murder, he declined to elaborate on his views of the film after seeing it.
"My role is not to be a movie critic," Danson said.
Although Sellers declined to name the possible Canadian distributor, a film industry source said the likely company would be Christal Films, a production and distribution company created in 2001 by former Lions Gate Entertainment executive Christian Larouche.
Sylvain Gagne, Christal's vice president of distribution and marketing, confirmed the company is negotiating with Quantum, although "nothing has been decided."
In convincing the French and Mahaffy families not to try to block the film's release, Quantum has overcome a significant roadblock.
Canada's major theatre chains had said that they wouldn't consider showing the controversial movie unless Quantum signed a contract with a Canadian distributor.
Even with a distribution agreement in Canada, it's unclear what rating Karla might receive. Violent films typically receive a "restricted" rating, which limits their potential audience to those 18 years of age and older.
It's possible that Quantum could turn a fortune off the movie even if it didn't appear on a single Canadian screen.
Even without selling a single movie ticket or DVD in Canada, Sellers said Karla might garner as much as $100 million (U.S.) worth of revenue following its scheduled release after Christmas, bolstered by a "best-case" estimate of $50 million in U.S. ticket sales.
The movie is scheduled to be released after Christmas, said Sellers, who also produced Fortunes of War, starring Martin Sheen, and Goodbye America with James Brolin.
Karla was financed by a small group of individual investors and could generate as much as $7 million in foreign distribution rights in countries such as the U.K. and Australia and another $30 million in DVD sales and rentals, Sellers said.
It might also generate income from sales to pay television companies like HBO or Showtime in the U.S. An industry source said Quantum is also negotiating a deal for U.S. distribution with companies including Vancouver's Lions Gate Entertainment and Sony Pictures.
Karla, which stars Laura Prepon of the TV comedy, That `70s Show, was made for about $5 million, less than one-tenth the budget of some of today's large-scale Hollywood blockbusters, Sellers said.