EXCLUSIVE: Abramorama founder Richard Abramowitz has elevated longtime business partner Karol Martesko-Fenster to CEO and Co-Chairman of the indie distribution company. Evan Saxon has been promoted to President, Head of International Distribution, in a move meant to double down on their continued emphasis on social impact and music-driven content for theatrical and event releases globally.
Abramowitz continues as Co-Chairman atop the company he founded in 2002.
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“Karol, Evan and I have worked closely together for years, with their partnership driving unparalleled results in the event-cinema world,” Abramowitz said. “Their decades-long experience in the music and social impact film genres makes me confident that they will take the company to the next level and continue to dominate, innovate and lead the way as the industry continues to evolve.”
Martesko-Fenster will lead the company in expanding its footprint and partnerships in the filmed entertainment sector while bolstering the strategic services to filmmakers and IP owners across all platforms. He will accelerate the integration of emerging technologies and novel release modalities and run point on culturally relevant and social impact-driven documentaries.
Saxon, operating out of Los Angeles, will lead music-centric engagements, direct-to-consumer campaign and international theatrical distribution and marketing activities.
Over the past nine years at Abramorama, Matresko-Fenster has championed the “event viewing” model, reaching beyond cinemas to create bespoke offline and online screening events including The Library That Dolly Built, Herb Alpert Is, Parkland Rising and Roberta Grossman and Nancy Spielberg’s Who Will Write Our History. For the latter, he conceived and implemented a 12-language, 355-screen, 55-country screening and global Facebook Live event from the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, simultaneously connected with the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. He previously led the film divisions at Michael Cohl’s S2BN Entertainment and Chris Blackwell’s Palm Pictures and has produced more than three dozen films. He also founded and launched several movie mags, including our sister pub IndieWire.
“For decades, I’ve said that Karol has been a fearless innovator who has transformed our industry with his foresight as a leader,” Abramowitz said. “His clear vision, unchallenged ability to execute and acumen as a collaborator made him the natural choice to take the reins in this new era at Abramorama. He’s a born connector and has earned the respect and trust of the entertainment industry around the world. I’m confident that with Karol’s leadership, Abramorama is perfectly positioned to maximize its opportunities in the rapidly shifting world of multi-platform media distribution.”
Saxon has navigated both the music and film worlds. He began his career working at IRS Records and Capitol Records and then started his own marketing and artist development company, working with Sting, The Ramones, B.B. King, Pantera, Lucinda Williams, Weezer, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and others. Universal Music got him to lean into creating music content in cinemas. This led to Saxon being at the forefront of event cinema with his own company, theatrically distributing films from such artists as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Pearl Jam and Rush, as well as documentaries on Bruce Lee and others.
He has overseen strategy, international distribution and marketing for Abramorama’s music-driven films including those from or about Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix, Green Day, Melanie Martinez, Above & Beyond, John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd., Duran Duran and others. Saxon will continue to engage with music industry stalwarts in the UK, Nashville, New York and Miami. The most recent music docs spearheaded by Saxon are the global release of The New York Times’ Critics Pick Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, the music documentary-meets-political-thriller What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat and Tears? and the anticipated character portrait Mr. Jimmy, the story of Japanese kimono salesman-turned-Jimmy Page artist, who has adopted the persona of Jimmy Page. Here’s a trailer for that pic, which Abramorama released this month:
“Evan’s knowledge of and commitment to bringing music-themed films to both targeted and broad audiences is prodigious,” Abramowitz and Martesko-Fenster said in a joint statement. “He’s been a great colleague and collaborator, and we’re delighted that he’ll continue to forge new relationships in the global music, movie and brand partnership worlds while continuing to expand his expertise in international distribution and marketing.”
SVP, Distribution Tom Hassell, SVP Client Accounts/Marketing Trish Sullivan-Rothberg, Director of Distribution & Operations Nicki Petrone and Director of Exhibitor Relations & Global Print Control Jon Friedman will continue with Abramorama in expanded roles. The company’s longtime in-house counsel, Rob Marcus, will continue to head up all business and legal affairs.
Fresh off the recent nationwide success of Oliver Stone’s Nuclear Now and Sam Green’s 32 Sounds, with its eight-week run at Film Forum, Abramorama is premiering Stephen Gyllenhaal’s documentary UnCharitable, theatrically on September 22 in New York. It’s a mind-expanding film, forcing one to reconsider the possible and featuring Dan Pallotta, whose TED Talk “The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong” called out the double standard that drives our broken relationships to charity. October will see three films back-to-back from Abramorama premiering in theaters across the country; Justin Monroe’s award-winning entertaining art documentary Holy Frit, Josh Berman’s electrifying Full Circle and Mathieu Rytz’s eco-thriller Deep Rising, executive produced and narrated by Jason Momoa, which premiered in Sundance 2023.
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