Forrest Lucas, founder and owner of Lucas Oil Products, MAVTV, Lucas Oil Speedway, and the naming rights to the Indianapolis Colts’ Stadium as “Lucas Oil Stadium,” and Ali Afshar, the professional racecar driver and actor turned movie producer, are entering the theatrical film distribution business and will begin releasing movies in 2019 under the Forrest Films banner.
ESX Productions, the film development, production and financing banner that Lucas and Afshar established in 2015, will fold into Forrest Films and operate as a label within the new parent entity, with actress/producer Christina Moore joining the producing team. Moore has produced seven films with Afshar and Lucas to date.
A multifaceted company with the ability to develop, package, finance, produce and now release a slate of features “telling inspiring and purpose-driven stories,” Forrest Films is housed on the Warner Bros. lot. Warner distributed the company’s previous films, American Wrestler: The Wizard, starring Oscar-winner Jon Voight, and the off-road sports drama Dirt, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Veteran distribution executive Scott Kennedy has been hired to oversee the distribution efforts of Forrest Films as president of worldwide marketing and distribution. Kennedy most recently served as executive vice president of operations and distribution for Open Road Films. He handled over 30 films while at Open Road including The Grey, End of Watch, Side Effects, Chef, Nightcrawler, the Sundance favorite Dope, and the Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Spotlight. Together they generated over $700 million in domestic box-office.
Kennedy started in the distribution film business with MGM almost 30 years ago before moving on to Miramax Films in 1998 and Open Road Films in 2011.
The expansion plan of Forrest Films is supported by a media fund, backed by Forrest Lucas, that allows the company to not only finance the production of feature films, but also provide P&A funding for theatrical releases. Forrest Films will fund and orchestrate theatrical release campaigns ranging from limited releases in target markets, to platformed rollouts, to wide openings nationwide, depending on the film and fully supported with marketing, advertising and publicity, the company states.
Forrest Films will release seven films in its first year of operation. These will include the action/drama Ride, starring actor/rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (the “Fast & Furious” franchise, Crash, Hustle & Flow); the drama Bennett’s War, starring country-music star Trace Adkins, Michael Roark and Allison Paige (“The Flash”); the romantic drama Roped, starring John Schneider (“Smallville”), Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) and Christina Moore; American Fighter, starring Tommy Flanagan (“Sons of Anarchy”), Bryan Craig and Sean Patrick Flanery (Boondock Saints, Powder); sports-themed Lady Driver, starring Flanery, Moore and Van Dien; the thriller The Stand at Paxton County, starring Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore, Thelma & Louise), Michael O’Neill and Jacqueline Toboni (“Grimm”); and Wheels of Fortune, starring Jeff Fahey (Alita: Battle Angel, “Lost”), Matt Jones, Matty Cardarople and Noureen DeWulf.
Lucas stated, “I entered the movie industry with a commitment to bring inspirational, hopeful content to the marketplace. Putting these movies in theaters is an extension of this mission. Being in the U.S. theatrical distribution business allows for a direct connection to filmgoers and a way to build our purpose-driven brand.”
Afshar added, “Our feeling is that the types of films we support are under-served in the theatrical space; hence an opportunity exists for us to be the ones delivering movies that speak to these audience segments.”
“I am thrilled to be joining the ESX Productions and Forrest Films team,” said Kennedy. “Our slate of films emanate highly impressive quality and the team’s contemporary perspective on distribution and marketing signifies a promising future for the brand.”