Music Box owner becomes an art film distributor; plans a five-to-eight picture slate for the year

Music Box Theatre owner William Schopf has rapidly emerged as one of Chicago’s biggest players in the national film distribution business.

Schopf’s new venture, Music Box Films, is in the second acquisition of a planned five-to-eight-picture slate of foreign and art films for the year, “similar to the films we show at the theatre,” he said.

He is confident about getting into the distribution business during this tumultuous time for the industry.

“People are watching art films?there’s a growing market for them,” he said. “They’re watching them in different places and having them delivered in different ways. But we think we can be quick enough to respond to changing patterns among art film viewers. We’re keeping our overhead low.”

The fact that the distributor’s first two titles are foreign-language doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be sticking with subtitled pictures, he said. The choices have been made on the quality of the individual films?and the fact that they were available.

“And generally a popular English language title tends to be more expensive, because there’s more competition interested in that,” Schopf said.

Schopf said he has an “oral agreement” with Gaumont, the production company behind the French spy spoof “O.S.S. 117,” which just picked up the audience award at the Seattle Film Festival.