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Genius Takes Leap of 'Faith'

10 Jan, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Genius Products, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based distributor 70% owned by The Weinstein Co., last week announced a long-term deal with Entertainment Rights (ER) and Classic Media Holdings to distribute, produce and finance animated faith and family-based DVDs and video games.

Under the deal, Genius will have North American DVD rights to ER and Classic Media's combined libraries of more than 4,000 programs, including “Fat Albert,” “Rupert Bear” and holiday specials Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town.

London-based Entertainment Rights is finalizing shareholder and regulatory approval for its recent $210 million acquisition of Classic Media, whose brands include “Lassie,” “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Underdog,” “Rocky & Bullwinkle,” “Mr. Magoo” and “VeggieTales,” among others.

Genius also will distribute DVDs from upcoming new productions of “The Lone Ranger,” “Gumby” and “She-Ra,” in addition to producing and financing 12 new video games based on characters from the ER and Classic catalogs.

“The economic model associated with the new agreements is a great fit for our business and is expected to add approximately $75 million in annual gross revenue,” said Trevor Drinkwater, president and CEO of Genius.

Drinkwater said Genius' previous experience working with Sony Wonder, Classic Media's former distributor, will help facilitate a quick and seamless transition for its retail partners.

Family and faith-based content represent one of four product categories (including independent film, lifestyle and sports) that Genius has determined with its retail partners as most relevant to consumers.

Last October, Genius announced a multiyear deal with Discovery Communications for U.S. distribution rights to the cable channel's kids programming, with the first of 16 titles coming in February.

“Right now, lifestyles is probably our weakest segment,” Drinkwater told an investor group in Dana Point, Calif. “It is an area in the next few months that we will really be focused on.”

The distributor will soon announce distribution deals with select lifestyle-content providers to augment its Wellspring catalog, martial arts films from The Weinstein Co. and related content from Televisa.

Drinkwater said he remains proud that he and chairman Stephen Bannon have been able to expand a 30-person company to 129 employees in 90 days following the acquisition by The Weinstein Co. a year ago.

“When we wake up in the morning now, the product sells on its own to a certain extent,” Drinkwater said. “We have a nice base of business that continues to build a foundation for us to grow on. We are getting darn close to having our anchor tenants in each one of the [product categories].”

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