Genius Products, Weinsteins Form Home Video Company5 Dec, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold
The irrepressible Weinstein brothers, Bob and Harvey, are back in the home video game.
The Weinstein Company LLC and San Diego-based Genius Products Inc. announced Monday the signing of definitive agreements to form a company that will get exclusive U.S. home video distribution rights to all feature films and direct-to-video releases owned or controlled by the Weinsteins.
The deal also covers the existing home video distribution operations of Genius Products, an independent DVD supplier that since the addition of former Warner Home Video executive Trevor Drinkwater as president and CEO in July 2004 has been on a major expansion streak. The company now has a library of some 1,500 titles. It has a large stake in the children's video market, with lines such as “Baby Genius” and “Little Tikes,” and also distributes Wellspring and Sundance Channel Home Entertainment titles.
"For us, being independent doesn't scare us," Bob Weinstein said. He praised the Genius Products executive team and noted they all have major-studio experience. "It lets us create our own video studio."
Weinstein said he and his brother really want to control all channels of their films' distribution."That really was the deciding factor," he said. "It's not just the first venue, but the second, the third, and so on. We are very good at distributing our movies, and this also gives us the chance to acquire additional product down the line."
The new company will be called Genius Products LLC. The Weinsteins will have a 70 percent stake in the new venture. The Weinstein Co. and Genius Products will operate under an interim distribution agreement until the deal closes in the first quarter of 2006.
The Weinstein Co., launched Oct. 1, was created by the Weinsteins after they left Miramax Films, which they founded in 1979 and subsequently sold to the Walt Disney Co. The company recently secured $490 million of equity financing.
Genius Products anticipates that the new venture each year will release to DVD about 20 theatrical films and a “significant number” of direct-to-video and library titles.
Potential new releases might include sequels to such films as Sin City and the “Scary Movie” franchise. The Weinstein Co.'s first theatrical release, Derailed, starring Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen, opened Nov. 11 and has since generated more than $32.7 million in domestic box office proceeds.
Other upcoming theatrical releases include Mrs. Henderson Presents, with Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins; Transamerica, starring Felicity Huffman; Wolf Creek, a horror film from Austria; and the Pierce Brosnan starrer The Matador.
The first home video releases are expected to arrive in March 2006.
Films acquired as part of the previously announced distribution deal between The Weinstein Co. and Rainbow Media Holdings also will be included under this new agreement. The previously announced deal includes films from Rainbow Media's theatrical arm, IFC Films, and all original series, specials, documentaries and films produced by Rainbow's national entertainment networks: AMC, Independent Film Channel (IFC), WE: Women's Entertainment and fuse.
Warren N. Lieberfarb, the former Warner Home Video president credited as the father of DVD, will become a special consultant to the Weinstein Co. and serve as a liaison with Genius Products. Lieberfarb was a consultant to the Weinsteins during their final years at Miramax.
“Trevor Drinkwater and his team, many of whom worked for me at Warner Home Video, represent the ‘best in class,' with a deep understanding of that marketplace and the needs of major retailers who serve it,” Lieberfarb said.
Drinkwater, who in addition to his duties as CEO will manage the day-to-day operations of Genius Products, said snagging distribution rights to the Weinsteins' "vast production slate will be nothing less than transformational for our company."
"The reason we are so excited about this is that it makes us a real player in the business," Drinkwater said. "Bob and Harvey are the best in the business when it comes to releasing films, especially for video — their films tend to overperform on video, compared to others. They just have a knack, and we believe this gives us extreme credibility that will help us when we want to attract talent as well as content partners in the future."
Added Genius Products chairman Stephen Bannon: "This deal shows the increasing power of retail, in that quality producers of the prolific nature of the Weinsteins don't need the major studios. What they need to do is control their own destiny at retail, and that's really the linchpin of this deal — the Weinsteins will have total control of their destiny. I think you are going to (see) a few more distribution deals like this in the future with people who, because of their content, don't need to go with the majors."
In addition to Drinkwater and Bannon, the new venture's senior management team includes executive vp of marketing Michael Radiloff, a former senior marketing executive at Warner Home Video, Disney Interactive and Activision; and general manager and executive vp Christine Martinez, who most recently served as vp of franchise marketing at Warner Home Video.
As part of the transaction, Genius Products also announced the completion of a $32 million equity private placement to major institutional investors as well as a number of current shareholders.