Tag Archives: Alliance Atlantis

Alliance Atlantis and Thinkfilm Distribution Set To Change Channels

As the Toronto International Film Festival gets ready to unspool the best field of Canadian films in years, the current shake-up of Canadian distributors has an air of déjà vu.

Producers and distributors have been unsettled by events including a year-long upheaval at Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution and ThinkFilm’s ongoing activity in Canada despite being American-owned for one year.

"Things are in movement, for sure. I’m as curious as everyone else to see where everything lands," says Hussain Amarshi, president of Mongrel Media, which has titles at TIFF including The Jane Austen Book Club and Canuck auteur Carl Bessai’s Normal.

Also making waves is Robert Lantos’ new shop, Maximum Film Distribution, which will handle fest opener Fugitive Pieces, which he produced, and Entertainment One entering the ring by taking over Seville Entertainment, with former MPD president and CEO Patrice Théroux at the helm.

It is the second such distribution shake-up in a decade. The last time events so transformed the sector – lifting it, in fact, to new heights – was 1997.

That year – when Thom Fitzgerald’s The Hanging Garden grabbed the TIFF audience award – witnessed a changing of the guard, as players including CFP, Norstar, Malofilm and Everest Entertainment made way for upstarts Red Sky Entertainment, Equinoxe Films and Motion International.

Fast forward 10 years later, as uncertainty at MPD – formerly controlled by Alliance Atlantis, and now owned by Goldman Sachs and EdgeStone Capital Partners – has rivals eyeing output deals coming up for renewal with U.S. partners including New Line Cinema and Focus Features.

"Whatever uncertainty exists over there may provide opportunity for incumbent suppliers to look around," says Brad Pelman, co-president of Maple Pictures.

Elsewhere, Entertainment One looks to make a splash at TIFF after acquiring Seville, a move that follows the DVD distributor’s purchase of British distributor Contender Entertainment as part of its international expansion.

"We bought Seville as we want an established, mature distribution company in Canada to build upon. [Seville] has a track record, a good library of movies, and an operation where they can sell Canadian movies into the international market," Théroux explains.

Seville’s high-profile Canadian films at TIFF this year include Shake Hands with the Devil, Poor Boy’s Game and fest closer Emotional Arithmetic.

Th̩roux adds that Entertainment One will be acquiring global rights to product for international distribution Рexcept in the U.S. market, where he will focus on DVD and broadcast sales.

"It will allow us to negotiate multi-territory deals, and provide the collateral to complete the financing of individual films," Théroux says, with a focus on acquiring and releasing Canadian films.

"Our investment return will not be reliant on any one territory, and everyone will benefit from the sharing of distribution costs," he adds.

Théroux worked at MPD under Victor Loewy, who is currently negotiating for a promotion from consultant to CEO at that firm, Canada’s largest indie distributor, which is now under new ownership.

Loewy welcomes new competition, not least of all from former colleagues Théroux and Lantos.

"Those companies will bid for films, whether Seville or Robert’s new company. So there will be a realignment of sorts, and we’ll see how this plays out," he says.

Lantos is converting his near-half stake in ThinkFilm – sold along with the company in October 2006 to Los Angeles-based David Bergstein and Capital Pictures – into Maximum Films.

Tony Cianciotta and Charlotte Mickie, former Lantos employees at Alliance Releasing (as it was called before the merger of Alliance and Atlantis) are key in the new company, as managing directors of Maximum Film Distribution and Maximum Films International, respectively.

Over at ThinkFilm, CEO Jeff Sackman dismisses industry concerns over his company’s continuing presence in Canada under American ownership. He says Think is in talks with Canadian Heritage with an eye to settling all concerns.

Also stepping up its game is Christal Films, which is distributing pictures nationwide out of a new Toronto office. And Peace Arch Entertainment has launched a division to release movies stateside, and is combining the newly acquired U.S. DVD distributor Trinity Home Entertainment with Canadian home entertainment distributor kaBOOM! Entertainment to increase the Canadian distribution of its growing film slate.

Peace Arch president John Flock says his company is looking to follow Lionsgate in becoming a vertically integrated producer and distributor.

"We can’t do it on the margins. You have to be a distribution company if you want to succeed," he says.

For its part, Lionsgate, having severed ties with Christal, is mulling once again releasing its own titles in Canada after selling its Canadian distribution arm to Maple in 2005.

A Lionsgate spokesman says a few options are on the table, including enlarging its minority stake in Maple.

Maple’s Pelman says Lionsgate, as a technically Canadian company, can consider a return to distribution here at any time.

But he cautions that Lionsgate has "multiple years" left on its library and output agreements with Maple.

Despite all this hungry competition, Bryan Gliserman, president of Toronto-based Odeon Films (part of the MPD family), expects a strong market at TIFF’s 32nd edition for his company.

"While it is a very competitive environment in which to acquire films, we remain optimistic that with the hard work carried out by our skilled team, we may find a few valuable films," he says.

XDCAM HD approved by Alliance Atlantis and Discovery Channel HD

Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting Inc. has given conditional approval to Sony XDCAM HD for high definition acquisition.

The Alliance Atlantis “Acceptable Camera List” gives the two Sony XDCAM HD cameras conditional approval in “Category one.” This means that individual productions must request and be granted permission to use the PDW-F350 or the PDW-F330.

Cameras must have a broadcast grade HD lens and current firmware. Video must be shot at 35 Mbps VBR, the highest resolution.

Discovery Channel also OKs XDCAM HD 

XDCAM HD was approved by the Discovery Channel over half a year ago, also with the condition that it be shot at 35 Mbps.

Sony HD Cam 1080i / 59.94, Stereo audio on channels 1 & 2, Dolby 5.1 mix (when available) expressed as Dolby E on channels 3 & 4.

Where facilities exist, the HD master must be accompanied by a closed captioned Betacam SX standard definition down converted dub. This standard definition dub shall contain a 16:9 letterboxed image obtained from the HD master. The program content shall be exactly the same on both versions of the master and the times codes shall match exactly.

Audio shall also match for any Lt/Rt or Lo/Ro content but no Dolby E is necessary. Closed captioning shall be on line 21. Discovery HD requires programs to be mastered in the 1080i 59.54 signal standard. Programs may be acquired in the 720P 59.94 signal standard and mastered in 1080i 59.94 for delivery only with prior approval. Programs may be acquired and delivered in 1080 psf 23.98 or 25, or 1080i 50 only with prior permission from Discovery HD.

The Weinstein Company and Alliance Atlantis Extend Deal

TORONTO, Sept. 8 /CNW/ – The Weinstein Company and Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution LP today announced that they have extended their multi-year exclusive distribution agreement through to December 31, 2010.

The deal was previously anticipated to terminate December 31, 2009. Under the extension, Motion Picture Distribution LP continues to acquire all distribution rights throughout Canada to all upcoming motion pictures released by The Weinstein Company and Dimension Films. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The announcement was made today on behalf of The Weinstein Company by Bob and Harvey Weinstein and on behalf of Motion Picture Distribution LP by John

Bailey, CEO. Bob and Harvey Weinstein said in a statement:
"Alliance Atlantis continues to be the best distributor for our product in Canada. We are extremely impressed by the team which consistently delivers exceptional

results, and outperforms its natural market share. There is no other partner in Canada that can handle our films as effectively."

John Bailey, CEO of Motion Picture Distribution LP said "It is gratifying for MPD to extend on our long-standing relationship with the exceptionally

talented Weinstein Company. Both Bob and Harvey’s impressive track record, which began at Miramax and Dimension Films, has seamlessly continued at The

Weinstein Company by delivering top quality films and commercial successes."

Larry Madden, Chief Financial Officer negotiated the agreement on behalf of The Weinstein Company. Jim Sherry, Executive Managing Director negotiated on behalf of Motion Picture Distribution LP.

Motion Picture Distribution says Loewy planned to compete

TORONTO (CP) _ A lawsuit filed by Motion Picture Distribution LP against its former chairman claims Victor Loewy told board members and managers he planned to set up a competing company and courted its major U.S. suppliers.

"Loewy has advised executives and board members of Motion Picture Distribution that he plans to start up his company to compete with the Motion Picture Distribution partnership and has solicited at least one key executive of Motion Picture Distribution," the company alleges in documents filed in Ontario Superior Court.

A court hearing scheduled for Thursday was put over until Friday.

The suit filed earlier this week by Motion Picture _ owned by broadcaster Alliance Atlantis (TSX:AAC.B) and Movie Distribution Income Fund (TSX:FLM.UN) _ is seeking an injunction against Loewy, claiming he violated his legal obligation to confidentiality, non-competition and non-solicitation.

"Loewy has also been in discussions with key business suppliers of the Motion Picture Distribution partnership and has travelled to New York and Los Angeles to meet with both entities in an effort to take their business from the Motion Picture Distribution partnership," the claim states, citing media reports.

"Motion Picture Distribution will suffer irreparable harm if Loewy is permitted to compete."

None of the claims have been proven in court. Motion Picture has also filed a lawsuit against former CEO Patrice Theroux and former general counsel Paul Laberge, alleging they breached their legal duties to the company. Both men were fired in July "for cause" the company has said.

Alan Lenczner, the lawyer representing Theroux, Laberge and Loewy, has denied all of the allegations.

Lenczner has said Loewy was locked out of his office in July after a board meeting was held in his absence. Movie Distribution is adamant that he resigned and it has refused to comment on the specifics.

Motion Picture recently became a buyout target of U.K.-based Marwyn Investment Management LLP, which planned to offer about $400 million for the company.

Units of Movie Distribution Income Fund were up five cents at $6.15 in Thursday morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Alliance shares fell 20 cents to $33.29.

Movie Distribution Income Fund responds to media reports

TORONTO, Aug. 15 /CNW/ – Movie Distribution Income Fund (the "Fund") today announced that it has received the non-binding proposal described in a press release issued by Marwyn Investment Management LLP ("Marwyn") on Friday, August 11, 2006.

As set out in its press release, Marwyn announced its intention to work with each of Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. ("AACI") and the Fund in relation to a potential offer by Marwyn to acquire Motion Picture Distribution LP ("MPD"); an entity indirectly owned as to 51% by AACI and as to 49% by the Fund.

Earlier today AACI announced that it expects to complete its previously disclosed strategic review of its holding in MPD by no later than the end of September, 2006.

AACI has previously stated that it is not predisposed to selling pending the completion of this review. AACI also stated that if it determines upon completion of its review that it may wish to sell its holding in MPD on acceptable terms, it will announce its intention and take appropriate steps at that time.