Music Box tops distributors in Spirit Awards nods

Marina Abramović in “The Artist is Present”

Chicago-based Music Box Films leads independents distributors Film Independent’s Spirit Awards with seven nominations, behind only Fox Searchlight’s nine nominations in overall totals.

This puts the five-year old company ahead of such iconic specialty distributors as IFC Films, Focus Features, and Sony Pictures Classics, which tie for third place with six nominations each.

This is particularly notable because 2012 has been Music Box’s first year releasing domestic films, after making its name on foreign-language titles like Tell No One and the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy.

“For producers to see us step into this arena and immediately win the most nominations of any independent US distributor should bring more of them to Music Box Films to distribute their films,” says William Schopf, owner of both Music Box Films and the Music Box Theatre.  

“In other words, this makes us look very good in the industry and should be good for business.”

Nominees up for multiple categories

Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth in "Keep the Lights On"Music Box’s marquee title of the season is Ira Sachs’s chronicle of years in a troubled gay romance, Keep the Lights On, which is up for best feature, director, screenplay, and male lead (Thure Lindhardt).

With four nominations, Keep the Lights On trails only Silver Linings Playbook and Moonrise Kingdom, which are contending in five categories apiece.

Another Music Box title, Sean Baker’s low-key drama set in the San Fernando Valley porn industry, Starlet, starring Dree Hemingway, is nominated for the John Cassavetes Award for best feature made for under $500,000, and has already been named winner of the Robert Altman Award for best ensemble cast.

Matthew Akers’s Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, about the Serbian-born self-described “grandmother” of New York performance art, is nominated for best documentary.

Keep the Lights On and Starlet are both in theaters now. The company’s next release is Travis Fine’s Any Day Now, starring Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt as a gay couple fighting to retain custody of their adopted son, who has Down syndrome.

Music Box to produce original films

Dree Heminway in "Starlet"With an annual slate of 12 theatrical releases and 25 home video titles, Music Box is also poised to make its first foray into production.

“We are reading a lot of scripts, exploring some ideas we have for original features and otherwise trying to create and consider opportunities,” Schopf says.

“It takes time, but our North American distribution capability as well as our connection to distributors in other territories and world sales agents gives us a leg up on being able to actually sell and distribute a film once made.”

Winners will be announced at the Spirit Awards on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at daytime luncheon ceremony in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica. 

The premiere broadcast will air later that evening at 9 p.m. CT.  Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominee Brunch will be held Saturday, January 12, 2013 at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood.