TORONTO (CP) _ Motion Picture Distribution LP and estranged chairman Victor Loewy are talking again, and sources said Thursday their discussions involve his planned return after a spat over an alleged plot to set up a competing company.
Motion Picture would neither confirm nor deny source statements that the talks deal with Loewy’s possible return to oversee the company’s deal with New Line Cinema Corp., a major U.S. moviemaker he helped sign with Motion Picture in the 1990s.
The company said in a release it’s involved in discussions with Loewy but it’s "premature to comment or speculate on the range of possible results that may occur."
The public disagreement over reports that Loewy intended to set up a competing resulted in the company filing an injunction against any such plans. Motion Picture said the matters are still before the Ontario court and an arbitrator.
New Line, producer of the hugely successful Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, is due to either extend or sever its dealings with Motion Picture by Sept. 18. So far, New Line hasn’t announced whether it will re-sign the distribution agreement. Calls to New Line’s offices in Los Angeles were not immediately returned.
Motion Picture Distribution is owned by broadcaster Alliance Atlantis (TSX:AAC.B) and Movie Distribution Income Fund (TSX:FLM.UN). Last month, Motion Picture was granted an injunction against Loewy that prevented him from setting up a rival Canadian film distributor.
Loewy was said to have met with some of Motion Picture’s partners in an effort to snatch them away from the company when their contract expired. New Line was one of the companies reported to be a likely candidate for such talks.
Another U.S. distributor that might have strayed from Motion Picture instead decided to extend its deal with the Canadian company. Last week, the Weinstein Co. tacked another year onto its contract with Motion Picture that gives it domestic distribution rights to all new films released by Weinstein and Dimension Films until Dec. 31, 2010. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The dispute with Loewy began after CEO Patrice Theroux and general counsel Paul Laberge were ousted from the company in July, prompting Loewy’s exit. His lawyers claimed he was dismissed, while Motion Picture Distribution says Loewy resigned.
The conflict escalated Aug. 18 when Motion Picture issued a release saying Theroux and Laberge had been fired for "wilfully deceiving and withholding material information from the board, advancing business activities for personal gain and misusing confidential information and company financial and other resources for personal gain."
Thursday afternoon, shares in Alliance Atlantis were ahead 61 cents at $34.12 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Movie Distribution Income Fund units were up 39 cents, or almost six per cent, to $7.19.