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Lions Gate's $15-million-plus offer for 'Terminator' is now the bid to beat

January 13, 2010 |  1:33 pm

Terminator Salvation Lions Gate Entertainment had bid $15 million plus a percentage of future revenue to buy the rights to the troubled "Terminator" franchise out of bankruptcy and has been officially named the top bidder.

In a federal bankruptcy court filing today, Halcyon Group, the company owned by producers Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek, named Lions Gate the "stalking horse" bidder for the "Terminator" rights. The duo put the franchise up for sale in September to raise cash to work their way out of Chapter 11 reorganization.

Lions Gate bid $15 million in cash plus 5% of gross receipts from any future "Terminator" movies it makes. Its bid would give the Santa Monica-based studio behind the Tyler Perry and "Saw" movies full rights to exploit the 25-year-old science-fiction franchise in the future. However, Halcyon will keep all revenue generated by last year's release, "Terminator Salvation," which sold $372 million of tickets worldwide and was issued on DVD last month.

The designation of stalking horse means any other company that wants to bid against Lions Gate has to offer at least $500,000 more. The deadline for competitive bids is coming up. [Updated at 2:05 p.m.: Bids are due Feb. 5. 5:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said competing bids had to be at least $750,000 higher] A new owner of the "Terminator" rights will be determined by the bankruptcy court at a hearing on Feb. 10.

Sony Pictures and Warner Bros., which distributed "Salvation" overseas and in the U.S., respectively, were interested in acquiring the rights, according to people close to the two companies. Halcyon in its filing didn't disclose whether they submitted bids.

Landing the rights to make new "Terminator" movies could be a natural fit for Lions Gate, which has home video distribution rights to 1990's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." The independent film studio's most popular franchise aimed at young males, the core audience for most of its pictures, is "Saw." The most recent installment, "Saw 6," was a box-office disappointment. (Update, 5:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this post inaccurately said that Lions Gate has home video distribution rights to the original "Terminator" and that last year's installment was "Saw 7.")

Lions Gate would most likely look to make "Terminator" sequels, but at a significantly lower cost than the $200 million that Halcyon spent to produce "Salvation."

Selling the rights could help end Halcyon's dispute with Pacificor, the private equity firm that lent it the $25 million it spent to acquire the "Terminator" rights in 2007. It would also continue the long-running drama behind the franchise, which has changed hands four times since the first movie came out in 1984.

Update (Jan. 14, 5:10 p.m.): Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Summit Entertainment and Legendary Pictures are all considering bidding against Lions Gate. For more details, see this post.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Sam Worthington in "Terminator Salvation." Credit: Warner Bros.

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