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Film intelligence: SModified distribution

Every week there are dozens of film news stories. Every week, we read them all and bring you the five most important ones in the single most important blog post you’ll ever read (today [at this moment]). This week: SXSW hands out some awards, Kevin Smith tries releasing other filmmakers’ movies via SModified distribution, and David Cronenberg tries TV.

1. South by South Winners

The 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival is winding down, and it was another strong year at Austin, Texas’ biggest film fest. The Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Features went to GIMME THE LOOT, the story of two graffiti writers from the Bronx out for revenge against some rival taggers; the Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize belonged to BEWARE OF MR. BAKER, an affectionate but evenhanded portrait of Ginger Baker, the legendary drummer-slash-madman from Cream and Blind Faith. South By audiences had their own favorites — they gave their awards to BAY OF ALL SAINTS, a documentary about a contentious piece of oceanfront property in Brazil, and EDEN, a fiction film based on a true story about a kidnapped teenage girl and forced into sex slavery. We’ll have a full wrap-up piece from South by Southwest on Monday (and by “we,” I mean “I,” and by “full,” I mean “the movies I was able to see when I wasn’t running around Austin interviewing people”). [Indiewire]

2. Attractions of Future SMovies Coming to This Theater

Also at South by Southwest this week, cult hero and comic book nerd avatar Kevin Smith continued his transition from indie filmmaker to indie distributor with a panel and party celebrating the launch of his new “SModcast Pictures Presents” film label. After the success of the unique business model he used to release his last film, RED STATE, which involved a combination of video on demand and high-end roadshow screenings with lengthy Q&As featuring the director, Smith is trying it again. So Smith will now tour with BINDLESTIFFS, a raunchy high school comedy that won the Audience Award winner at the 2012 Slamdance Film Festival. Smith’s label plans to acquire and release at least four films theatrically per year, plus more on video on demand. View Askew nerds better start saving their money. [The New York Times]

3. Cronenberg Goes Under the Knife

For the first time, director David Cronenberg is getting into television, with an independent series he and Media Rights Capital will soon be shopping around Hollywood called Knifeman, a drama that’s said to focus “on the trials and triumphs of a radical, self-educated surgeon, delivering a visceral portrait of the extraordinary and unorthodox lengths he will go to uncover the secrets of the human body.” And then presumably, to have sex with those secrets (hey, man, it’s Cronenberg). The series, written by Friday Night Lights alumni Rolin Jones, is currently looking for a lead to play the aforementioned radical, self-educated nudity-prone (again, just guessing) doctor. After that the next step is the pilot which Cronenberg himself will direct. [Bleeding Cool]

4. Congress Loves a BULLY

For the sixty-eighth straight week (approximate), there’s more news about the ongoing fight between The Weinstein Company and the Motion Picture Association of America over the Weinsteins’ new documentary BULLY. Long story short: teenagers in high school (SPOILER ALERT!) use bad language, that bad language is (SPOILER ALERT!) in the film, and as a result BULLY was given an (SPOILER ALERT!) R rating by the MPAA that some feel is unearned and even destructive. The latest development has the United States Congress getting involved — which makes sense, there’s really not that much else going on right now that requires their attention — and petitioning the MPAA to drop the R to a PG-13. So far twenty Congresspeople have signed on, including Rep. Mike Honda of California. I can’t tell who’s the bully here: the MPAA for restricting a little documentary with a chance to affect real social change in this country, or Congress for interceding in a way that reminds me of when you used to pick on a kid in school and he’d run home and get his older brother to beat you up. [The Huffington Post]

5. A Clunker of Mars…Or Is It?

The movie on the minds of everyone in the industry right now is JOHN CARTER, Disney’s mega blockbuster, that flopped harder than an uncoordinated kid on a diving board last weekend, taking in just $30.2 million at the domestic box office. But, wait, is it that big of a flop? $30.2 million isn’t a great opening for a film that some analysts have speculated has a pricetag in the $250 million range, but in addition to the $30 million it made here, it also banked $70 million, abroad. So a $100 million opening worldwide is a disappointment? Apparently, though not as much of one as some speculated it would be. According to one Wall Street expert who understands things that are well beyond my feeble mind like financial projections and math, a $100 million start projects to a loss of about $53 million for Disney — not cause for celebration, certainly, but not completely dire either. If you’re hoping for John Carter’s Barsoom Zoom ride at Disneyland, though, I wouldn’t hold my breath. [The Hollywood Reporter]