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Doctorow Named COO at Evolving Ventura

6 Oct, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Eric Doctorow, who ran Paramount Pictures' home entertainment division for nearly a decade, has been tapped as chief operating officer of Ventura Entertainment Enterprises, a leading independent supplier and distributor.

Doctorow, who after leaving Paramount in January 2003 briefly served as COO of game maker THQ, is charged with leading the company as it continues to evolve from a pure distributor of niche home video product into more of a content-driven sellthrough provider. He will supervise both the entertainment and distribution divisions.

“It was appropriate at this time in Ventura's lifespan that we bring on an Eric Doctorow to lead the company,” said chairman and CEO Larry Hayes. “We've been fortunate, but I'm pretty bullish about the future. And like any distributor, you need to get into the content side at some time, if only to improve margins. Eric understands it, and he's the right guy to lead this company into our future.”

Doctorow said he's glad to be back in the video business, an industry in which he's spent most of his professional life.

“I really missed the business,” Doctorow said. “I wanted to come back to my roots, and I really want to continue to make the business grow. I think the business still has a lot of growth opportunities, I believe being part of that next level of growth will be as exciting as, or even more exciting than, the first time.”

In addition to hiring Doctorow, Ventura promoted Chris Lynch to EVP of Ventura Entertainment and named Jim Weatherson EVP and general manager of Ventura Distribution.

Lynch, a 17-year industry veteran, is the architect behind Ventura's successful Studio Latino project, a confederation of Spanish-language labels that caters to the booming U.S. Latino market. In his new role, he also will oversee StudioWorks Entertainment, Ventura's acquisition and production studio, and Ventura Select, a cult and specialty film label. Lynch also will be responsible for international operations and will work on expanding the company's studio, supplier and vendor relationships.

Weatherson, who spent 17 years at Universal Music and Video Distribution, will be responsible for augmenting sales and distribution strategies as Ventura continues to grow.

Jeff Clanagan remains president, CEO and coprincipal of UrbanWorks Entertainment, Ventura's in-house label for urban programming. UrbanWorks has released a branded line of BET movies and also developed the Platinum Comedy Series, featuring such popular African-American comics as Dave Chappelle and Bruce Bruce.

Ventura was launched in 1993 by Hayes as a traditional nonexclusive distributor, although the company shied away from major-studio feature films in favor of specialty product that often couldn't find suitable distribution elsewhere.

“There were a lot of independent film and video and special-interest producers who needed viable distribution options, and we could represent as many as 50 to 60 labels at any one time,” Hayes said.

Four years ago, Ventura began to move into exclusive distribution pacts with companies such as Black Entertainment Television, Spain's Lolafilms and Girls Gone Wild, as well as taking a financial interest in content. Today, about 85 percent of Ventura's revenue comes from distribution, while the other 15 percent comes from content it wholly or partially owns.

Among the many lines currently distributed by Ventura are BET Home Video, Fox Television, Lolafilms, Paxson Home Entertainment, Razor & Tie, Showtime, TokyoPop and Viz.

Recent growth includes forming a joint venture with Skouras Films, snagging exclusive distribution rights for the Slamdance Home Entertainment label and securing domestic home video rights to the series “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.”

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