Mansa, a free, ad-supported streaming service centered on Black culture, has struck a distribution deal with AMC Theatres to have its original features and series exhibited in theaters nationwide.
The deal comes as specialty distributors and streamers continue to refine their strategies for maximizing the benefit of theatrical runs, which are still emerging from the chaos of Covid. Exhibitors who survived the pandemic are increasingly looking to alternative sources of content as some questions remain about traditional distributors’ level of commitment to theaters. The unique DNA of Mansa, which was founded by filmmakers and actors David Oyelowo, Nate Parker and Chiké Okonkwo along with tech entrepreneur and film financier Zak Tanjeloff, also contributed to the unusual agreement.
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“A fundamental aspect of our business is to lift up underrepresented voices that have long been left out of traditional entertainment circles and distribution models,” Mansa Chief Commercial Officer Chris Yates said in a press release. “With this partnership in place, we will be able to begin to shift the status quo and give our filmmaker partners the distribution, exposure and recognition they deserve.”
In an interview with Deadline, Yates said specific titles and release dates and locations would be announced later this year. He declined to offer specifics about how ticket sales will be divided between the companies, but confirmed “there is a commercial relationship.” The length of theatrical engagements will vary, he added, but in all cases titles will be theatrical exclusives rather than day-and-date releases with streaming.
Mansa showcases global Black culture through on-demand film, TV, short-form content and a collection of FAST channels. To date, the streaming outlet has raised $8 million in seed round financing, with funding led by MaC Venture Capital with additional backing from Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo, Galaxy Investment Partners, Base Ventures, Rainmaker Films, Black Capital VC, and Robert F. Smith.
In announcing the deal Mansa and AMC said they will hold special events together around the premieres of some titles, with Q&A sessions featuring filmmakers and actors.
Mansa said it is aiming to create “lasting, long-term relationships with all creators and talent who produce original content” for its platform. Filmmakers and talent “will share in the company’s success and become a part of its growing network of creatives,” the announcement said.
The theater circuit was drawn to the partnership because of Mansa’s mission. “A core tenet of AMC’s inclusive programming strategy is bringing compelling and dynamic stories to our theatres that resonate with audiences, especially those that are often underrepresented on screen,” said Nikkole Denson-Randolph, SVP Content Strategy, AMC. “This partnership with Mansa, and their range of original content, opens yet another avenue for AMC to deliver new and exciting content, from a diverse range of rising filmmakers and creatives, to our audiences across the country. ”
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