Will Aspen legal battle benefit film fans? Who knows? | AspenTimes.com

Will Aspen legal battle benefit film fans? Who knows?

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photoFilms by the late Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman are now in the hands of an Aspen-based group as part of an ongoing legal battle. What that means for cinephiles isn't yet clear.
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ASPEN The distribution rights to more than 1,200 Swedish films have landed in the hands of the former owners of Aspens Isis Theater, but what that will mean for cinephiles in Aspen and elsewhere isnt yet clear.The collection, including the entire library of legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, is now controlled by Aspen-based Isis Litigation LLC, a group that includes both Aspen residents and others who formerly owned the local movie theater. The Isis group has acquired the film assets in its ongoing legal battle with Svensk filmindustri, a Swedish company that backed the lease for a former operator of the theater.What happens next to the collection has yet to be decided, said attorney Jack Smith, of the Denver office of Holland & Hart LLP, representing the Isis group.I think its safe to say, everything is on the table, he said Thursday. Smith said his clients will likely be trying to strategize on the best use of the films from a revenue standpoint. The sale of the collection is possible.It certainly should have some significant value, but trying to put a dollar value on it we havent gotten there yet, he said.Isis Litigation LLC has been locked in a legal fight with Svensk, a subsidiary of the Bonnier Group, since it won a 2003 court judgment that has since grown to nearly $10 million.According to Smith, the Isis groups right to garnish Svensks rights fees in the United States to satisfy the judgment has had a chilling effect on distribution of Svensks film library, including the Bergman films.We believe that these films, including the outstanding Bergman collection, will be of great interest to both distributors and the general film audience, he said in a prepared statement. The Swedish film industry, and particularly Svensk, has produced an admirable body of work over the years. Svensks willingness to let this resource go is very difficult to understand. Isis will be embarking on a program to bring these films to a wider audience, by sale, expanded distribution, or possibly by marketing collaborations with other established catalogs.Sam Houston, a local partner in the group that formerly owned the Isis, did not return a call seeking comment on their plans for the film collection.Aspen Film, a local nonprofit that organizes several annual film events, including Aspen Filmfest, Shortsfest and the Academy Screenings, is not involved in the Isis groups acquisition of the Svensk catalog, but Laura Thielen, Aspen Films executive director, was intrigued to hear of the latest development.In terms of having access to the Svensk film collection thats a treasure trove, she said from the road on Thursday. Thielen was headed to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival.Really, thats Swedish film history thats a cultural legacy, that collection, she said. Its a real concentration of film history.Nonetheless, Thielen noted, many of the titles are undoubtedly available on DVD, which would could make it difficult to lure an audience to a festival of, for example, some of the Bergman classics.Thielen wondered if the library includes early works by Swedish-born actress Greta Garbo or films by director Jan Troell specifically The Emigrants and The New Land, starring Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow that were big on the art house circuit in the early 1970s and have not been released on DVD.The Troell films are not listed on a new website launched by the Isis group SwedishClassicFilms.com. However, in announcing the acquisition, the Isis group indicated Svensks library includes more than 1,200 films, and fewer than 250 titles are listed on the website.The Svensk catalog includes such Bergman films as Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander, Hour of the Wolf, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, as well as such classics as Lasse Hallstroms My Life as a Dog and Bo Widerbergs Elvira Madigan.Bergman, who died in 2007 at age 89, was a three-time Oscar winner for best foreign language film and, at the 1971 Academy Awards, was presented with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.janet@aspentimes.com


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