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Weinstein Co. buys 25% stake in Anchor Bay, signs home-entertainment deal

January 4, 2011 | 11:56 am

The Weinstein Co. has agreed to acquire 25% of Liberty Media's home-entertainment company, Anchor Bay Entertainment. As part of the pact, Weinstein Co. has inked a five-year distribution deal in which Anchor Bay will release new movies on DVD and digital platforms.

The deal resolves the question of what Liberty would do with Anchor Bay after it earlier this year unsuccessfully tried to sell the division along with Overture Films, its film studio that was shuttered over the summer.

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed, but a person familiar with the matter said Weinstein Co. bought the minority stake entirely in cash. It is the first purchase for the independent film studio run by brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein since it restructured its finances over the summer to wipe out $450 million in debt, and slimmed down its operations.

In 2006, Weinstein Co. acquired a 70% stake in home-entertainment company Genius Products, a deal that went belly-up as the DVD market shrank. By 2009, Genius was bought by a group of investors who saved it from bankruptcy.

In past interviews, Harvey Weinstein has admitted Genius was a bad investment and that he was ill equipped to help run a home-entertainment company. Under the new deal, Anchor Bay President Bill Clark will stay in his post and Weinstein Co. executives will serve in only an advisory role.

Though it talked with numerous major studios about signing a DVD distribution deal, Weinstein Co. decided to go with the smaller Anchor Bay in part because it would be the only major studio provider, making its content a higher priority. The studio's previous home-entertainment deal with Sony Pictures expired in September.

In a statement, the Weinsteins said they will seek to help build Anchor Bay into a destination for a number of independent film studios.

"We hope this strategic partnership is a first step in not only making Anchor Bay a home for our product, but in potentially housing other companies' product as well, giving quality independent films the kind of care needed in today's marketplace."

The deal does not include television rights for Weinstein Co. movies on Liberty's Starz channel. The studio has a distribution agreement with Showtime that runs through 2014.

The first Weinstein movie to be released on DVD and for digital download by Anchor Bay will be its current Oscar contender, "The King's Speech."

The Weinsteins' existing library of 108 films will continue to be distributed on DVD and digital by Vivendi Entertainment and Sony.

-- Ben Fritz


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