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Vivendi Acquires Genius Titles, Select Staff

14 Sep, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Vivendi Entertainment (VE), a unit of Universal Music Group, Sept. 14 said it acquired the home entertainment distribution rights to new releases and catalog fare from Genius Products, including brands such as World Wrestling Entertainment (“WrestleMania”), Sesame Street, Classic Media (“Frosty the Snowman”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “VeggieTales”) and RHI Entertainment (“Tin Man” and “Lonesome Dove”).

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Distribution rights are for North America, except RHI and WWE, which are for the United States only.

Tom O’Malley, president of Vivendi Entertainment, said the deal would allow the company to “provide financial stability” to content partners during a challenging retail climate.

“With this transaction, our company becomes an ideal home for other top brands seeking a DVD and digital distribution partner,” O’Malley said.

The deal would mushroom VE’s catalog offering to more than 3,000 titles, with annual new releases on DVD and Blu-ray projected to top about 250 titles, according to spokesperson Maria Ho-Burge.

Other brands distributed by VE include, DIC, Palisades Tartan, Dimension Extreme, Codeblack, Palm Pictures, Razor & Tie, Shout Factory! and Salient Media.

Theatrically, VE releases New York, I Love You on Oct. 16. The anthology stars Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Shia LaBeouf, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci, among others.

The transfer of license agreements to VE, in addition to the hiring of select Genius executives, would appear to end another chapter in the once burgeoning storyline for Genius Products, which until earlier this year was majority owned by The Weinstein Co. (Inglourious Basterds) and distributed its packaged media new releases. 

Vivendi Entertainment is not expected to distribute TWC new releases going forward.

Genius executive Mitch Budin was named EVP and GM of Vivendi Home Entertainment, reporting to O’Malley in Los Angeles.

Genius said it would continue operations and has entered into a long-term distribution deal with VE, which the distributor said it hopes to parlay into focusing on alternative entertainment brands such as toys, electronics and graphic novels.

“This alliance will allow our company to fully focus on our core strengths including content creation, development, production and management,” said Genius CEO Trevor Drinkwater.

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