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Alamo expanding into film distribution

First offering is terrorist satire 'Four Lions,' due this fall

Brian Gaar

The Alamo Drafthouse is getting into the film distribution business with a big splash.

Drafthouse Films' first offering, a controversial comedy about a group of jihadists, will open in this fall in New York, Los Angeles and Austin.

Alamo CEO Tim League said he first saw "Four Lions" when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. A self-described British comedy nerd, League said he loved the fact that the slapstick film tackles difficult subject matter while finding humor in the debate over terrorism.

In fact, the controversy was probably partly why the film was still available, League said.

"I think it's the perfect film for us," he said.

The movie was written and directed by British comedian Chris Morris , who has said it was based on extensive research.

"These (terrorist) cells have the same group dynamics as bachelor parties and five-a-side basketball teams," Morris said. "Plans are upset by arguments, egos, testosterone and idiocy. Terrorism is about ideology, but it's also about doofuses."

The announcement comes on the heels of League's return in June as CEO to the company he helped start. He and his wife, Karrie, had sold the brand in 2004 but kept three of the Austin theaters. League is now both the chief executive and a co-owner of the chain.

With the chain now nine theaters strong in Texas and Virginia, League said he wants to continue to grow the Alamo in bigger markets. The new distribution label is also a natural progression, he said.

Alamo already promotes films for the Austin market, League said, and it made sense to expand it to a national level. For "Four Lions," Alamo is working with a partner who will book the film in other chains.

A 10-city promotional screening tour with Morris will begin in mid-October. After the film's fall release, it will expand to 10 more cities. If it does well, more cities could follow, League said.

The distribution announcement garnered online buzz in publications such as the Hollywood Reporter.

"More than ever, the film culture of Austin will dictate what the rest of the world gets to see, and in our opinion, that is a very good thing," Steph Beasley wrote on the Austinist website.

League said there's no template for future releases from the label.

"Just like with the theater, if we feel there's an audience for something, we'll go ahead and give it a shot," he said.

bgaar@statesman.com; 912-5932