Tag Archives: Alliance

End of Alliance-Miramax era?

TORONTO — Canadian indie movie distributor Alliance Films believes its long relationship with Miramax Films is likely coming to an end.

“We’re speculating, as we don’t have a formal notice” from Miramax, Alliance chairman Victor Loewy said Monday after Disney released Miramax’s “Smart People” in Canada over the weekend.

Alliance Films and its predecessor, Alliance Atlantis Communications, has released all Miramax titles in Canada since 1994, including such boxoffice hits as “Pulp Fiction,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “Life Is Beautiful.”

Now that pipeline has stopped as Miramax weighs its distribution options for the Canadian market.

“I’m not holding my breath. They have not decided who they are going to go with,” Loewy said.

He added that Alliance has released Miramax titles on a film-by-film basis since 2005, when the Weinstein brothers left the distributor they founded in 1979 and set up their own company.

The last formal agreement between Miramax and Alliance Films, which has former Miramax executive Charles Layton as its president, expired Dec. 31.

A source at Miramax said that the U.S. supplier has since begun “to explore other opportunities,” and that options on the table include continuing to let Disney’s Canadian arm release its titles here, re-upping with Alliance or recruiting a new Canadian distribution partner.

Alliance made a bid to renew its distribution pact with Miramax six months ago, and has not sweetened its offer since as the U.S. studio has courted other possible Canadian suitors, including Maple Pictures and Entertainment One.

“They’re looking at all the options available to them to best serve them,” a rival Canadian distributor now wooing Miramax Films said of the U.S. supplier.

Alliance Films’ remaining customers include Focus Features, the Weinstein Co. and Overture Films. The indie distributor is about to lose a longtime distribution pact with New Line Cinema at the end of 2008 when that studio is absorbed by Warner Bros.

Output deals with U.S. suppliers, while potentially lucrative for Canadian distributors because they guarantee a supply of popular Hollywood films, are expensive, as they call for a massive P&A expenditure required to release titles into Canadian theaters.

Loewy said that the Miramax relationship hasn’t been profitable for some time, adding that Alliance will unveil new Canadian output deals before the Festival de Cannes as it looks to replace lost partners.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

CanWest, Alliance investment rises to $262M

TORONTO (CP) _ CanWest Global Communications Corp. (TSX:CGS) is increasing its equity investment in the takeover of Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. (TSX:AAC.B) to $262 million, up from the previously announced $200 million.

CanWest and Goldman Sachs said Tuesday they have completed details of their joint-venture agreement announced in January, and CanWest will hold a 36 per cent equity stake but two-thirds of the voting shares in the Alliance Atlantis specialty-channel assets.

The New York investment bank will have the other one-third of the voting shares and 64 per cent of the equity in the broadcasting joint venture.

As previously announced, CanWest will have no stake in the Alliance Atlantis entertainment and movie distribution businesses after the $53-per-share takeover. Goldman Sachs will take the Alliance Atlantis stake in the "CSI" TV crime-series franchise, and the Toronto company’s 51 per cent of Motion Picture Distribution LP is to be controlled by a Canadian partner of Goldman Sachs.

Tuesday’s announcement came a day after CanWest and Goldman, amid increasing turmoil in the corporate debt market, gave up on selling high-interest notes to support the $2.3-billion takeover and said a bank syndicate will provide financing.

The closing of the deal was postponed by eight days to Aug. 15 to finalize bank commitments.

The portion of the $2.3-billion overall price being allocated to the Alliance Atlantis broadcasting business is $1.5 billion. While CanWest contributes $262 million and Goldman Sachs puts up $472 million, their CW Investments Co. joint venture will take on $788 million in debt.

This will consist of a $475-million term loan and $313 million of bridge loans. There also will be a $50-million revolving credit facility which is not expected be immediately drawn upon.

These debt financings will be independent of CanWest and Goldman Sachs, with recourse only to CW Investments.

CanWest has undertaken to merge its Canadian television business, including the Global TV network, with the CW Investments group in 2011. The Winnipeg-based media conglomerate’s equity interest in the combined enterprise will be based on the profit performance and debt level of the businesses during the year ending March 31, 2011 _ not Dec. 31, 2010, as previously disclosed.

Assuming that the CW Investments debt on March 31, 2011, was still $788 million, CanWest’s equity interest would be 50 per cent if total earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were $200 million in the year ending March 31, 2011.

CanWest’s stake would rise _ or fall _ by about five percentage points for each $50 million in combined EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) above or below $200 million. It also would rise if debt were reduced or fall if debt increased.

CanWest and Goldman Sachs "have also agreed to certain put rights and call rights with respect to Goldman Sachs’ equity interests in CW Investments," the companies said.

If CanWest or CW Investments have not acquired all of the Goldman Sachs equity interest by the expiry of Goldman’s last put right in 2013, "then Goldman Sachs will be entitled to sell the CW Investments group, subject to a right of first offer in favour of CanWest, failing which Goldman Sachs will have the right to require CW Investments to effect an initial public offering."

Health workers free admission SiCKO

TORONTO, All regulated healthcare workers across Canada presenting valid ID (as set out below) will be able to see SiCKO for free from Monday July 23 to Thursday July 26 to further encourage members of the public to see Michael Moore’s provocative and acclaimed film.

The offer comes after The United Nurses of Alberta purchased 150 tickets to distribute to the public. Filmmaker Michael Moore had congratulated the Union on their efforts and offered to reimburse the union for their action.

Subsequently, Alliance Atlantis* Motion Picture Distribution extended the free admission offer to all card-carrying nurses in Canada. Over 6000 nurses accepted the invitation in just four days. The new initiative will allow all regulated healthcare workers to get into SiCKO for free from Monday July 23 to Thursday July 26 by bringing their practice permit, license or registration card to any Cineplex Entertainment, Empire Theatre, or Landmark Cinema showing the film.

Commenting on the expanded opportunity, Jim Sherry, Executive Managing Director of Alliance Atlantis* Motion Picture Distribution said, "We’re pleased to be able to both give the opportunity for more people to see this remarkable movie and to say thank you to the healthcare community for their important contribution to the well-being of all Canadians."

When reached for comment, Michael Moore said, "I want to thank the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario for encouraging their members to bring your political leaders to go see SiCKO. It’s important to remind your elected officials how critical it is to protect your Medicare system established by Tommy Douglas, and the values and ideals behind it of taking care of everyone in society, no matter how rich or poor. And it’s not like your MPs and MPPs have anything better to do on a Friday night anyway."

SiCKO, Michael Moore’s highly acclaimed and entertaining exposé of the American healthcare system, continues to captivate audiences across the country. It is written, directed and produced by Michael Moore. The film is produced by Meghan O’Hara and co-produced by Anne Moore. Kathleen Glynn, Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein serve as executive producers.

Alliance supports anti-theft laws

TORONTO, Alliance Atlantis* Motion Picture Distribution LP lends its support to today’s announcement by the Federal Government that it has introduced a Bill to address the rampant problem of film piracy in Canada to the House of Commons.

This action, introduced by The Honourable Beverly J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women, The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Industry, is the first step in changing the law to make the unauthorized recording of a movie in a Canadian theatre a criminal offence. 

"We are delighted with the Government’s announcement to change the Criminal Code to help fight the growing problem of movie theft in Canadian theatres," said CEO John Bailey. "This is an important step towards positive changes to protect the rights of Canadian exhibitors, filmmakers, producers, directors and distributors, and we applaud the Government’s efforts."

CanWest specialty channel gold mine

TORONTO (CP) _ CanWest Global Communications Corp. (TSX:CGS) could become the operator of a gold mine of specialty TV channels if the takeover of Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. (TSX:AAC.B) is approved by regulators this summer, says an analyst familiar with both companies.

Kaan Yigit of Toronto-based Solutions Research Group said Tuesday that strong first-quarter earnings for Alliance Atlantis signal that the assets will prove lucrative for the long term.

Alliance Atlantis posted a 16.1 per cent surge in advertising revenue on strong audience growth in its specialty channels, which include HGTV, History and digital labels Showcase Action and the National Geographic Channel.

The company has "spent many years building those brands and you see the payoff from that standpoint in this crowded universe of brands and channels," said Yigit.

They’re "gold mines because those channels will perform well over the years."

That’s encouraging for CanWest, which is awaiting approval of a $2.3-billion takeover of Alliance Atlantis by a unit of its company, partnered with Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs, which is supplying 85 per cent of the financing.

The broadcast ad revenues were part of a overall solid quarter for Alliance Atlantis, whose profit almost doubled to $41.2 million from a year-ago $21.5 million with the help of worldwide sales of the CSI television franchise.

CSI revenue increased 74.3 per cent to a record quarterly take of $162.3 million on strong international licensing. Alliance’s partner in the series is CBS.

Chief executive Phyllis Yaffe said overall revenue grew 32 per cent to $358 million as advertising sales increased to $41.9 million. Subscriber revenue was up 8.5 per cent to $35.7 million.

Net earnings for the three months ended March 31 amounted to 98 cents per share, compared with 49 cents per share a year earlier.

Adam Shine, an analyst at National Bank Financial said profits gains beat his expectations because the company spent the last two years "maintaining margins amidst ongoing programming spending initiatives."

Alliance has also been making inroads into video-on-demand services, which Yigit said could help solidify its competitive stance in the future.

Last week, the company announced a pairing with Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) to offer content from HGTV, Food Network, and National Geographic Channel on its digital boxes.

The CanWest deal still needs to clear some hurdles, including approval by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and a legal challenge from Movie Distribution Income Fund (TSX:FLM.UN), which jointly owns a motion-picture distribution business with Alliance.

Nonetheless, the company expects the deal to be completed in July or early August.

Alliance Atlantis shares rose five cents to $51.35 Tuesday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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