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MGM focused on international TV, even while making movies

December 13, 2011 | 12:27 pm

BarberBirnbaum
At the studio known for big screen classics from "The Wizard of Oz" to the James Bond series to "Rocky," there's a new focus: international TV.

Under chief executives Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, who took control of the long-troubled company when it exited bankruptcy one year ago, selling titles from the 4,100 movie library to foreign broadcasters is a top priority. It's seen as the best way to make money off a collection of pictures that have already exhausted much of their revenue potential in the fading DVD market but are just starting to pick up steam on digital platforms.

Under its new chief executives, who trimmed the company from more than 400 to fewer than 300 and moved to a nondescript office building in Beverly Hills, MGM doesn't market or release movies. But it's still making them. For now, most are in partnership with other studios, like next week's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," in which MGM invested 20% of the budget, and next December's James Bond film "Skyfall" and "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," in which its ownership stake is 50%.

Starting in 2013, MGM plans to start releasing movies it develops itself. Many in development now are remakes of films from its library, like "Robocop," "WarGames," "Poltergeist" and "Idolmaker."

Either way, however, the international TV market still drives MGM's film business. On movies it co-finances, the new MGM prioritizes securing the right to sell the movies to foreign broadcasters. On films it develops, it looks for properties that will have strong appeal overseas.

The strategy is simple: Armed with movies that foreign broadcasters are eager to air, MGM hopes to be able to open doors to larger deals for its entire collection of movies and make more money off its library than would otherwise be possible.

For much more, see the story in today's Times on the new MGM one year into the reign of Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum.

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-- Ben Fritz

Photo: MGM chief executives Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images.

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