Author Topic: 2929 signs Sod for six pack (discussion more interesting than title suggests!)  (Read 9086 times)

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modage

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Soderbergh, outsiders challenge studio model
Source: Hollywood Reporter

The movie business is "out of whack," director Steven Soderbergh says. "The studio model has to be rethought."

Never one to talk idly about such things, the national vp for the Directors Guild of America has banded with dot-com entrepreneur-turned-movie mogul Todd Wagner to try out some radical new ideas. This month, they are showing their first collaboration -- the digital movie "Bubble" -- to receptive film festival audiences and critics at the Venice, Toronto and New York events. Shot for $1.6 million, "Bubble" is a far cry from "Ocean's Twelve."

The two make unlikely allies. Brainy Hollywood insider's insider Soderbergh, with partner George Clooney, runs production company Section 8 on the Warner Bros. lot. Together, Soderbergh and Clooney have produced a wide range of movies, from the star-studded big-budget "Ocean's Eleven" series to such indie films as "Criminal," "The Jacket" and Clooney's sophomore directing effort, "Good Night, and Good Luck." That's how Soderbergh got started talking with rangy Hollywood outsider Wagner, whose 2929 Prods. helped to finance their indie films.

Ever since jumping into the entertainment business in 2002, Wagner and his outspoken partner, Mark Cuban (www.blogmaverick.com), have been openly challenging established modes of distribution in Hollywood. They're building a high-tech, new-model, vertically integrated studio. Their 2929 Prods. and digital production house HDNet Films produce low-cost movies; HDNet Film Sales raises financing for them overseas; Magnolia Pictures Distribution books them on the 200-screen art-house Landmark Theatre chain; and for the first time, with "Bubble" in January, the high-definition cable channel HDNet Movies will air the films at the same time that they go out through their nascent DVD division.

"I like Mark and Todd's energy and enthusiasm," Soderbergh says. "They're free-thinking."

Soderbergh, Wagner and Cuban cooked up a deal that has had industry tongues wagging since they announced it in April. HDNet Films agreed to finance and distribute six high-definition video movies directed by Soderbergh, to open day-and-date in theaters, on HDNet Movies, and on DVD. "This is my response to certain trends in the entertainment industry," says Soderbergh, who believes that the good old days of watching 35mm movies in theaters, where they play for weeks at a time "are gone. I wish it weren't so. Everything changes and evolves and we've got to get with it, embrace it and find a way to make it work. The movies are not the way they used to be when I grew up. It's 30 years later!"

Last summer, Soderbergh shot the murder mystery "Bubble" on location along the southern Ohio/West Virginia border, with locals who had never acted. Soderbergh used three of the same high-definition Sony 950 cameras George Lucas deployed on the "Star Wars" movies. "I just wanted to make a movie about love and jealousy," Soderbergh says, "but in an environment that you don't often get to see in movies. The whole appeal was the simplicity of it. The idea was just to not tart it up. These cameras make it easy to go in without any lights, on all real locations."

Made with no established actors and none of the bells and whistles that most of us are accustomed to seeing in movies, "Bubble" is downright radical. Debbie Doebereiner, its 40-ish star, is the blue-eyed, chubby general manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Parkersburgh, W. Va. Casting director Carmen Cuba scoured the area, approaching people who fit writer Coleman Hough's descriptions, then interviewed them at length on tape.

"Debbie is arresting," says Soderbergh, who paid his actors slightly more than scale and gave them all a piece of the movie. "I love looking at her. There shouldn't be anything unusual about seeing any of these people."

The lean and mean production was made possible by Soderbergh's experience making "K-Street," HBO's weekly political TV series that he and his crews shot on the fly in Washington. "It was total full-on boot camp," Soderbergh says. "I came out of that knowing that if I can survive that, I can do anything. I had so much fun doing this one. I wish I could do the rest of them right away."

That will have to wait until 2007, because of Soderbergh's busy schedule -- first, he is directing "The Good German," Paul Attanasio's adaptation of Joseph Kanon's post-war Berlin novel, which stars Clooney, and that will be followed by "Che," starring Benicio del Toro as the Latin American revolutionary. Soderbergh plans to shoot his second and third films under the HDNet pact back-to-back, he says.

With his feet firmly planted in the two worlds of big-budget studio production and indie experimentation, Soderbergh is openly critical of what he calls the "skewed studio system." The overall economics of cost vs. revenue "need to be rethought," he says. "People need to be made true partners in the real risk/reward ratio. Everybody needs to be talking about fair compensation and participation. It can be done. The force of economics is irresistible."

In January, the new paradigm will be tested when Soderbergh's no-frills "Bubble" opens at the same time in theaters, on HDNet Movies and on DVD. " 'Bubble' is just the beginning," Wagner says. "It's a process of learning the best way to package and integrate and market movies so consumers can buy a DVD in a theater or Best Buy or go to the theater or do both."

"I want them to sell 'Bubble' DVDs in the theater lobby," Soderbergh says, smiling.

As independents, Soderbergh and Wagner are willing to talk openly about subjects that are being hotly debated behind closed doors elsewhere in Hollywood. When Disney chief Robert Iger recently brought up the concept of shortening the window between theatrical release and DVD, he was fiercely criticized by the National Association of Theater Owners. "Because of piracy, the studios are already thinking about DVD day-and-date," Soderbergh says. "It's already happened. Now is the time to own it. The situation with exhibitors is going to have to be addressed. They've got to be a partner in all this. But there's going to be a new normal. That's the sad fact. The whole business has to change now. And everybody has to participate in this conversation."

Their new distribution model won't cannibalize the theaters, Wagner says. "I don't buy the argument that this is a horrible thing for exhibitors," he says. As part of the HDNet experiment, exhibitors who played the documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guy in the Room" are receiving a 1% share of that film's DVD sales.

"We're saying, 'Have a piece of what you generated,' " says Wagner, who admits he's been talking with NATO "so that we make it a good thing for everybody. This is an opportunity to rethink the rules of exhibition, to learn the most effective way to reduce costs and increase revenue and make customers happy."

While he plans to buy more theaters, Wagner hopes that the big chains that so far have resisted playing his movies will change their minds. Soderbergh has been a big help, Wagner says: "Steven's A-list credibility has made the community take us more seriously, has accelerated the process and brought it into the open. Steven will help. Writing checks for 'Enron' will help."

The day-and-date concept is not written in stone, Wagner says. Going forward, he's not just talking to studios and exhibitors. As he and home video executive Randy Wells put together their new DVD division -- "Bubble" will be their first release -- Wagner also is talking to Netflix, Amazon and Yahoo! "These are not fly-by-night companies," he says. "They have hundreds and millions of customers. The studios don't have one-on-one relationships with their customers, or have their credit card numbers. There are enough other paths available and accessible to go in other directions to get the same result. If we hit the wall, we will go under it, or over it."
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

grumpus

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up next: a spalding gray documentary.
and some other stuff.

TORONTO -- HDNet Films, the unit of 2929 Entertainment that produces low-budget films in high definition, announced an ambitious new slate Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival. 2929 co-heads Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner have been using this year's fest to promote their vision of a vertically integrated, 21st century digital mini-studio.

The entrepreneurs, who are challenging established film industry practices, also are debuting three productions at the fest: Steven Soderbergh's no-frills murder mystery, "Bubble"; Alex Steyermark's dark comedy "One Last Thing," about a dying kid's surprising last wish; and Joseph Castelo's "The War Within," a chilling tale of a terrorist in New York.


Run by producers Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente, HDNet Films has contracted for a new film from Soderbergh, who is prepping a digital documentary about the late Spalding Gray's last never-performed monologue, to be produced by Washington Square Films. (The film is in addition to the six high-def features -- "Bubble" is the first -- the director already has committed to deliver to HDNet Films.)

In addition, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, who has produced "The Kid Stays in the Picture" and "9/11," will return to the documentary world to produce "Hunter," a portrait of the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson to be directed by Alex Gibney, who directed HDNet Films' "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." Gibney had exclusive access to film Thompson's recent pyrotechnic memorial service.

Carter also will produce "Surfwise," director Doug Pray's portrait of the mythic Malibu surfer Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz.

"Before we started HDNet Films we weren't making docs at all," Kliot said. "It took us 12 minutes to greenlight 'Enron.' Now a lot of the best projects are docs. We're buying some people cameras and seeing what they come back with. People are coming to us before places like HBO."

HDNet Films also will collaborate with This is That to reunite director Hal Hartley, Parker Posey and Ted Hope for the spy thriller "Fay Grim." Mike Ryan is also producing the project, set to start in Europe in January.

Kliot and Vicente are riding high from the success of "Enron," which grossed more than $4 million -- mostly on 2929's Landmark Theatre screens because when "Enron" premiered simultaneously in theaters and on 2929's cable channel, HDNet Movies, bigger theater chains refused to book the film. "It could have done even better," Vicente said. "But Mark and Todd are willing to take a hit just to see what will happen."

The "Enron" DVD will be released by Randy Wells' nascent home video unit this January.

Soderbergh's $2 million "Bubble," which he shot with local actors, will debut simultaneously in theaters, on HDNet Movies and via Wells' home video unit.

2929 plans to give exhibitors who play these films 1% of their DVD sales. "This is just the beginning," Wagner said of the groundbreaking experiment, saying the films will be promoted in video stores as "now showing in theaters." "It's a process of learning the best way to package and integrate and market movies so consumers can buy a DVD in the theater or go to the theater or do both. Steven Soderbergh's A-list credibility has made the community take us more seriously, has accelerated the process and brought it into the open. The studios are all watching us. We have the luxury of creating a studio system from the ground up, using the newest technology."

Kliot and Vicente's HDNet Films, with its staff of six, already has produced five films. Currently in postproduction are Matthew Tauber's Chicago drama "All Fall Down," starring Anthony LaPaglia and Isabella Rossellini; Katherine Dieckman's '70s Hamptons drama "Diggers"; Gibney's jazz docu "Hancock"; and J.T. Petty's horror documentary "S & Man."cq "They have the money to back us at whatever level we need," Kliot said of Cuban and Wagner. "There's no pressure to fill the pipeline, to appeal to the lowest common denominator. That's what separates us from Hollywood."

Five additional projects are in the works. Carlos Brooks' relationship drama "Quid Pro Quo" stars Vera Farmiga as a woman who gets involved with wheelchair-bound journalist Nick Stahl and is being produced by Sanford/Pillsbury Prods. HDNet Films' most ambitious production to date, "Quo" starts four weeks of production next month.

"It's refreshing to be able to make a movie based on the quality of the project," Vicente said, who toiled in the freelance indie sector for years assembling funds for such films as "Welcome to the Dollhouse," "Chuck and Buck" and "Three Seasons." Now she and Kliot can rely on 2929's distributor, Magnolia Pictures, to release their movies on the 200-screen Landmark chain. "Now we have a structure that allows us to do that," said Kliot, who hopes that with time, more theaters will be willing to book their movies.

Kliot and Vicente also have joined a consortium of British companies -- including Optimum, Warp and Film Four -- chipping in several million each to fund a series of British-directed movies. "We'll go to the Film Council to request development funds and we'll all put some real money into the consortium. We'll all bring projects to the table, and opt in or out as we wish," Vicente said. "They're interested in us because American distribution is hard to come by. We want to make films for an international audience."

check it: http://www.backstage.com/backstage/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001136971

MacGuffin

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2929 creates Truly Indie for filmmakers

2929 Entertainment is demonstrating its belief in the indie filmmaker by creating a distribution company called Truly Indie that will allow filmmakers to control how and when their film gets distributed.

Using 2929's Landmark Theater chain and marketing and distribution resources from Landmark and 2929's Magnolia Pictures, Truly Indie will provide filmmakers with a self-funded distribution operation whereby filmmakers pay a flat fee for one week of theatrical distribution across Landmark's indie theater network while retaining complete control of all rights to the product.

"We believe that the traditional distribution model is inefficient and closed off to a number of quality films. We are trying to create an alternative," said Bill Banowsky, Magnolia Pictures CEO and Landmark president. "If a film is made and has the potential to find an audience, rather than depend upon an existing company to buy into the belief that the film has marketing angles and commercial potential, we want to give the keys to the filmmaker to distribute it themselves."
 
2929 plans to use Landmark's digital projection system, set to launch next year, to inexpensively distribute digital movies that would otherwise not get picked up for theatrical exhibition.

"By utilizing digital projection and the best independent theaters in the country, we've created a business model that allows filmmakers to control the distribution of their films," 2929 co-founder Mark Cuban said.

MADE-TO-ORDER MARKETING

Truly Indie has created an internal process to assess films from interested filmmakers on the basis of artistic and commercial viability. The filmmaker will then be able to choose which markets he or she wishes to release the film in, and Truly Indie will dedicate customized marketing resources to the advertising and publicity of that film.

According to Banowsky, the flat fee will differ market to market and is negotiated on a film-by-film basis. In addition to the 57 Landmark Theatres, 2929 hopes to sign affiliate theaters to its digital network. The company is not commenting on the technology details of the project at this time.

According to Banowsky, by the time Truly Indie launches in the first quarter, Landmark will have digital capabilities in every one of its markets.

The Philippines-set "Cavite," which has screened at the South by Southwest Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival, among others, already has been chosen for a Truly Indie launch. Co-directed by Ian Gamazon and Neill dela Llana, "Cavite" is being repped by indie vet John Pierson in conjunction with his Advanced Producing class at the University of Texas at Austin.

"It would make no sense to take a do-it-yourself digital film and spend three or four times the budget to blow it up to 35mm," Pierson said. "With Truly Indie, we can release the film in digital theaters. Then we can intelligently control every single expense in the big, key media markets while also targeting both Filipino and college audience strongholds."

Other films signed on to Truly Indie are actor Donal Logue's directorial debut, "Tennis Anyone...?" and "Fall to Grace," a debut effort from Mari Marchbanks.
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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MacGuffin

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Maverick director toys with screen conventions
Filmmaking is one big experiment for Steven Soderbergh, writes Garry Maddox.

STEVEN SODERBERGH is used to working with just about the biggest names in Hollywood. For Ocean's Thirteen, which he is finishing in Los Angeles, the Oscar-winning director of Erin Brockovich, Traffic and two other Ocean's movies roped in Al Pacino as a bad guy alongside George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

"I think we're going out strong," he says of the close of the Ocean's chapter.

Soderbergh also thinks big. In midyear, he starts shooting back-to-back movies about Che Guevara with Benicio Del Toro as the famed revolutionary in Cuba and then Bolivia.

But it was working with a small-town cast who had never acted before, including a woman who had worked in a KFC outlet for 24 years, a trainee computer technician and a cop, that gave him one of his best filmmaking experiences. That movie was Bubble, a low-key drama that stirred up controversy when it was released in the US last year.

The issue was not what was on screen. Bubble centres on three struggling workers in a small-town doll factory where nothing much happens … until there's a murder. But the crime is not the focus of the movie.

"It's about the circumstances in which these people live and the environment that they're around and the fact that pressure builds up and has to be expressed somehow," Soderbergh says.

What upset many theatre owners was his bold strategy to give Bubble, the first of six planned high-definition digital movies, a simultaneous cinema, DVD and pay TV release.

The head of the US National Association of Theatre Owners, John Fithian, called it "a radical misguided experiment" after many of his members refused to screen the movie, which led to poor ticket sales.

But Soderbergh disagrees.

"It's hard to judge how it went because we were never able to expand beyond the Landmark Theatre chain, which is only 50 screens," he says. "We weren't able to open as wide as we wanted because other theatre chains weren't interested in playing the film. The good news is we sold a lot of DVDs."

Pressed on the financial success of the venture, Soderbergh admits the exercise only just covered the movie's $US1.6 million ($2 million) budget. "We broke even, which, considering what an odd movie it is, is great. And we've got five more to go. To my mind, it's all just one giant film being made in six segments."

Next up is a movie about "super high-end call girls" in New York, who make $US2000 an hour. Soderbergh will again use non-actors and plans another simultaneous ("day and date") release.

"This is a genie that's out of the bottle," he says. "I've been making this argument for years when people say you can't have movies that go out day-and-date in all formats. I say to them that it's already happening in Canal Street in New York.

"Lord of the Rings went out day-and-date in the US all over the street. It's happening now; it's just underground."

Soderbergh says movie release strategies will inevitably change when digital projection reaches cinemas in a couple of years.

"The opportunities for theatre owners to expand what they're able to do and show will counteract a lot of the things that I think they're afraid of right now," he says. "Once everybody goes digital, you're going to have theatres that are able to program very personal calendars. You can decide there are a whole generation of filmgoers who haven't seen The Godfather on the big screen.

"You call Paramount, they put it on a server and that Friday and Saturday, it's 'one weekend only - The Godfather: Part I and Part II' in your theatre. It costs nothing.

"You're going to have live shows, live concerts. For people who have an entrepreneurial spirit, it's going to be an amazing time."

Soderbergh wanted to use non-actors for Bubble because of their lack of self-consciousness.

The movie's casting director walked the streets of two Midwestern towns looking for people who matched the descriptions in the script outline, finding Debbie Doebereiner on a drive-through visit to a KFC store. Like everyone else in the cast, she had never acted before.

"I would interview each of the cast members and incorporate their personal stories into the movie," says Soderbergh. "So when the young guy [played by student computer technician Dustin James Ashley] is talking about the fact that he had to leave school because he had this anxiety issue - these panic attacks - that really happened to him."

Soderbergh maintains that Bubble is as political as many of his other movies.

"I jokingly refer to the Ocean's films as a prayer for peace but those are fantasy films. I put those aside. I feel a movie like Bubble reminds you that more people lead that kind of life than a better kind of life."
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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Gamblour.

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You know, I was against Soderbergh's experiment at first. But then I had this conversation with a guy at work, who talked about how the way the theater experience is going, there is a very large, growing population of people who want to stay and watch dvds. That's not news, but then he explained the idea of a Direct TV kind of deal where day and date would apply to, not just a dvd copy, but feeding it into homes. To make a long story short, I think he really had the right idea. I don't think theaters will go out, but they will become either a really shitty experience and start losing real money, or they will charge more, but have better services. People pay $30 to see a play, why not a film? That was his point, and I think it's a good one.

Plus, in the end, who would you rather agree with, Soderbergh or Shyamalan?
WWPTAD?

last days of gerry the elephant

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...or they will charge more, but have better services.

That will more than likely be the case.
Basing it on history of course.

modage

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or they will charge more.  and have the same services.  which they are doing endlessly.  FUCK YOU ticket prices.
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

Gamblour.

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or they will charge more.  and have the same services.  which they are doing endlessly.  FUCK YOU ticket prices.

But what I mean is when it comes down to exorbitant prices and a shitty experience, or watching it in your home (especially as tvs get bigger, better quality, etc), they will be forced to offer better service or go out of business. The guy I talked to imagined fine wine, food, seating, dress code, excellent service, for the price of going out and paying so much.
WWPTAD?

I Love a Magician

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hollow man: the black tie event

last days of gerry the elephant

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or they will charge more.  and have the same services.  which they are doing endlessly.  FUCK YOU ticket prices.
The guy I talked to imagined fine wine, food, seating, dress code, excellent service, for the price of going out and paying so much.

Uhhh...

Well mod has a point anyway, theater experience will always be theater experience. Going out with friends to a theater is something to do, and enough to keep theaters in business for a very long time. I was originally implying slight improvements to seating, screens/image quality, sound and so forth... Theater equipment is improving just as home theater equipment is.

That hollow man comment is spot on, so many people use the theater as an excuse to 'hangout', like teenagers for the most part. And for the majority of their movie selections, think about all the cheesy movies dying out because of theater dress codes... Hollywood would never allow for such things.

MacGuffin

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Theater equipment is improving just as home theater equipment is.

Theater etiquette however...
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


Skeleton FilmWorks

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or they will charge more.  and have the same services.  which they are doing endlessly.  FUCK YOU ticket prices.
The guy I talked to imagined fine wine, food, seating, dress code, excellent service, for the price of going out and paying so much.

Uhhh...

Well mod has a point anyway, theater experience will always be theater experience. Going out with friends to a theater is something to do, and enough to keep theaters in business for a very long time. I was originally implying slight improvements to seating, screens/image quality, sound and so forth... Theater equipment is improving just as home theater equipment is.

That hollow man comment is spot on, so many people use the theater as an excuse to 'hangout', like teenagers for the most part. And for the majority of their movie selections, think about all the cheesy movies dying out because of theater dress codes... Hollywood would never allow for such things.

Well the crowd I'm talking about isn't teenagers. Teenagers will always have stupid parents with stupid money, but there is going to be, if there isn't already, a market of people older than 25 who hate teenagers and want to have a better theater-going experience, and would be willing to pay for it. The larger prices get, the more people like mod would rather sit at home with the high quality technology they can easily afford. This isn't just around the corner, this will probably be something 15 or 20 years from now.

Mac hits the point I'm getting at, that theater equipment might get better, but audience etiquette doesn't. If people were offered a theater that promised a lack of hooligans, I'm positive people would pay a bit extra for it. These theaters are already there. What is going to happen is where the ticket prices get too high and people would rather say fuck it I'll just watch it at home or fuck it I'm going to go some place nice instead.
WWPTAD?

modage

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i would pay more for a hooligan free theatre.  unfortunately they cant really promise that.  loews/amc did try that crazy thing a few summers ago where they had 2 rows of "premium seats" that were basically reserved and ushers made sure no one else sat there and the chairs were nicer and there was more room and they would bring you food like a waiter, and the price was a few bucks more. but it failed, for whatever reason, so now they are just weird seats that anyone can sit in.
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

pete

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arthouse theaters are hooligan free for the most part.  you can't really make movies with hooligan content and then expect the people to come in with dogearred kunderas books.  that's life though, if you wanna share an experience with a group of strangers, you'll have to deal with the good and the bad.  I'll figure that 1 in 5 movies that I see will feature some kinda annoying audience member, that's the chance that I'll have to take.  sometimes they hush up, sometimes they don't, oh well, a horror movie is still way funner to see with a bunch of screaming teenagers.
soderbergh is not coming from an honest place though; he's just looking for ways to make more dough.  his pretty theory about what people really want is just another way to get the studios even more control pass the assembly line.
“Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot.”
- Buster Keaton

 

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