Will Clarke and Andy Mayson’s Altitude Film Entertainment is moving into the distribution space with the launch of Altitude Film Distribution. Former Momentum exec Hamish Moseley will head up the division whose first titles will be Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary; Morgan Neville’s Sundance debut 20 Feet From Stardom; and The Loch, a horror thriller starring Peter Mullan. The UK has been ripe for new distribution entrants since Momentum was folded into eOne after the latter took over Alliance, and with the disappearance of specialty company Revolver. Altitude Distribution’s launch comes just over a month after Icon UK announced its return to the business. Clarke, who founded Optimum Releasing and left the operation after it was taken over by Studiocanal, says the new company will source a “substantial number” of films from the international marketplace for UK distribution, as well as releasing films from its own production slate. Altitude’s recent production slate has included the James McAvoy-starrer Filth and the currently shooting Big Game with Samuel L Jackson which eOne will release in the UK. The company also has an international arm, Altitude Film Sales, which is run by Mike Runagall.
After percolating for several months, Icon UK’s return to distribution has finally come together. New Sparta Ltd, an investment company founded by Jerome Booth, has acquired Icon Film Distribution UK and Icon Home Entertainment UK from the Icon UK Group which pulled out of the distribution business in 2011 to focus on in-house film finance and production. The new IFD is still staffing up, but Icon exec Ian Dawson will be CEO of the venture with Norman Humphrey as executive chairman and COO. Zak Brilliant is head of theatrical, Ray Primett is head of home entertainment and Sarah Brady is operations manager. The purchase by Sparta, which has interests in publishing, insurance and telephony, will include titles released though IFD’s output deal with Lionsgate, and the UK library. IFD will be acquiring third-party films for all media. Among the first titles is the upcoming James Wan-directed Demonic.
Since eOne’s acquisition of Alliance eliminated a buyer in the UK market – and with the disappearance of Revolver – a new player had been expected to emerge. Alliance’s Momentum and eOne used to give one another a run for the money, and an overwhelmingly common refrain in the past year has been that there is a real opportunity for another distributor to surface.
Bill Condon‘s WikiLeaks movie The Fifth Estate debuts in Toronto which kicks off today. The helmer will next turn to A Slight Trick Of The Mind, reteaming with his Gods And Monsters star Ian McKellen. McKellen will play a retired Sherlock Holmes who is haunted by a 50-year-old unsolved case. Based on a novel by Mitch Cullin, the screenplay is adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher (The Duchess). Icon UK’s production arm AI is financing and co-producing. BBC Films is also co-financing. Shooting gets underway in the UK next April. Anne Carey is producing via Archer Gray Productions. The King’s Speech producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman of See-Saw Films; Icon/AI Film’s Aviv Giladi; and Len Blavatnik, whose Access Industries owns the Icon UK group; and BBC Films’ Christine Langan are exec producing. FilmNation is handling international sales. Condon is repped by WME, Anonymous Content, Wayne Alexander and Robert Nau. McKellen is repped by Chris Andrews at CAA and Paul Lyon-Maris at Independent Talent Group.
EXCLUSIVE: There have been seismic shifts in the UK’s indie distribution sector over the past few months, and more are in the cards. In what could be seen as a healthy sign for the industry, we’re hearing that Icon Distribution is set to re-emerge, backed by film fund Prescience, financier of The King’s Speech. The Icon UK Group, owned by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, pulled out of the distribution business in 2011 to focus on in-house film finance and production. At the time, it pacted with Lionsgate UK to handle its theatrical titles and recently announced a deal for Icon Entertainment International’s library to be repped by Exclusive Media. We understand that Prescience is close to a deal to acquire what remains of Icon Distribution in the UK, led by Icon executive Ian Dawson. We hear a deal has been in the works for some time and there’s a chance it may not make, but expectations are that the new company could launch in time to be buying at May’s Cannes Film Market.
The timing looks fortuitous given the changing outline of the UK’s distribution landscape. Already this year, eOne’s takeover of Alliance folded in Momentum, eliminating a key buyer. The resultant drop in prices was loudly lamented by sales agents in Berlin. One exec tells us, “If you’re a producer or a sales agent selling to the UK, you used to say you needed to get eOne and Momentum in a bidding war,” and that’s clearly not happening anymore. But another distributor welcomes the rationalization of the market where prices were inflated by having too many distribs competing for the same films. Another tells us, “It’s shaking out the rubbish that’s out there and the projects that are un-financeable.”
Still, an overwhelmingly common refrain is that there is a real opportunity for another distributor to surface. A revived Icon could fill that space. Another name that pops up as a potentially aggressive player is Koch Media, the UK arm of the German giant. It released Arbitrage and Red Dawn earlier this month. Koch, a rival distributor opines, “has a shitload of money to burn through. That’s the first thing you need.”
In late 2011, the Icon UK Group initiated a strategic restructure to focus on in-house film finance and production. At the time, it pacted with Lionsgate UK to handle distribution of its future production slate. Today, a deal was confirmed between Icon and Exclusive Media for the latter to represent Icon Entertainment International’s 200+ title library. Among films included in the deal are Coriolanus, What Women Want, An Ideal Husband, Mean Streets and five titles from the 1960s Fu Manchu series. Exclusive is also taking over the Majestic Films library. The deal was negotiated by Guy East, Marc Schipper and Peter Naish for Exclusive and Icon’s Aviv Giladi and Estelle Overs.
Icon UK Group Joins ‘The Butler’; Forest Whitaker And Oprah Winfrey And Intriguing Choices For Presidents
Matthew McConaughey as JFK, Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and John Cusack as Nixon? As Lee Daniels unveiled The Paperboy at Cannes, Icon UK Group signed on to be part of his next film, The Butler. The picture will star Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey in the true story of Eugene Allen, the White House butler who served eight American presidents, observed the civil rights movement, and was brought back after he retired to witness the inauguration of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama.
The casting is intriguing. Whitaker plays Allen, Winfrey his wife, McConaughey is John F. Kennedy, Cusack is Richard Nixon, Rickman plays Ronald Reagan, Jane Fonda is Nancy Reagan, and Cuba Gooding Jr, David Oyelowo, Lenny Kravitz and Terrence Howard also star. Danny Strong wrote the script with Daniels based on Wil Haygood’s Washington Post article.
Lionsgate UK today confirmed its new distribution pact with Icon UK, saying it will handle the release of all of the latter’s titles moving forward. The deal is for rights to all films to come, but, for the moment at least, the Icon library is not included. Speculation has been that Lionsgate would take over the library, which includes Precious, Man On Wire, A Single Man, Paranormal Activity and others. Lionsgate UK already handles the home entertainment rights for the Miramax and Nu Image libraries and recently entered a multi-year licensing deal with Netflix ahead of the streaming service’s 2012 UK launch. Icon’s releases in 2011 have included Jodie Foster’s The Beaver and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Lionsgate will now handle the release of Winding Refn’s next picture, Only God Forgives, along with Walter Salles’ On The Road, Adam Wingard’s You’re Next and the very English Postman Pat: The Movie.
Icon UK today announced that the company would head in a “new strategic direction” by focusing on acquiring and producing films while forming a distribution partnership with Lionsgate. A hook-up with Lionsgate had been expected, but this is the first time the move has been confirmed. The deal is a multi-year pact and will see Lionsgate distribute and release certain of Icon’s film rights in the UK. Icon, meanwhile, is itching to ramp up production. According to a statement, Icon UK’s international sales division will sharpen its focus on acquiring new projects by seeking out production deals to source original content, while retaining its core business off-selling product to international distributors. Aviv Giladi, who was named CEO of Icon UK last week, said: “I’m hugely excited about the prospect of engaging with directors and producers to source and create the most compelling independent movies possible. Content creation is central to my career, and I invite the world’s film talent to come and talk to us at Icon about projects we can partner with.”
Aviv Giladi is the current Chairman of R.G.E. Group Limited, a privately held media group based in Israel that specializes in a variety of content and production activities, principally for television. Icon today announced the appointment of Aviv Giladi as CEO of the Icon UK group of companies, comprising Icon Film Distribution (IFD), Icon Home Entertainment (IHE), Icon Entertainment International (IEI) and Majestic Films & Television. Commenting on his appointment, Aviv said “I am excited to be involved in taking Icon forward and creating new opportunities”.
EXCLUSIVE…MONDAY UPDATE & WRITETHRU: I now have the details of that in-the-works deal between Ukrainian-born billionaire industrialist Len Blavatnik and cash-strapped The Weinstein Company. Harvey and Bob Weinstein are social friends with Blavatnik, whose U.S.-based Access Industries was the backer of Stewart Till’s 2009 purchase of Icon UK film and entertainment business from then owners Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey. Now The Weinstein Co and Icon UK will find movies with budgets of $5 million to $10 million, and maybe even $15 million (“if we see something we like,” an insider tells me). Weinsten Co will put up 100% of the P&A for the U.S. market and Icon UK will put up the P&A for foreign. And Weinstein Co will distribute the pics in North America while Icon UK will release in England and Australia. Weinstein Co will pre-sell a few overseas territories but Icon UK will re-sell most of the international countries. And the two companies will split the profits 50-50. It is The Weinstein Co’s intention to make as many films as it can that fit the criteria. The figure may start out as 1 or 2 the first year because of a revolving credit facility of only $25M which the Weinstein Co hopes could balloon to a fund of $100M.
Expect more international output deals soon. D Films, the Canadian distributor, initially plans to release between 5 and 6 films a year from the British sales and distribution company. This will rise to between 6-8.
The Icon output deal will cost D Films around C$5 million ($5 million) a year, guaranteeing 5% of the budgets for Icon’s production slate. It is estimated London-based Icon will spend $100 million on production annually. Coriolanus, Ralph Fiennes’ Shakespeare adaptation which Icon is distributing, is now in post-production.
It also gives D Films the opportunity to have Icon sell the 2-3 films it makes each year around the world.
The pact reunites Darryl Iwai, chairman of D Films, with Icon CEO Stewart Till. The pair worked together when Till ran PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and, less successfully, Signpost Films. Both Icon and D Films released Creation, starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connolly.
Last year, indie movies accounted for C$242 million in box office revenues, according to Montreal-based Zoom Services.
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