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Lionsgate Gets HIT Family Properties

24 Mar, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The quest for more content continues at Lionsgate, as the mini-major further fortifies its core home entertainment business by securing distribution rights to HIT Entertainment's portfolio of family product.

Lionsgate says it will start distributing HIT's full slate of home entertainment releases in May. HIT properties such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Barney, Angelina Ballerina and Bob the Builder previously were distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Thomas and the Great Discovery, the brand's first feature-length direct-to-video movie in three years, will be one of the first titles releases, in September.

Lionsgate president Steve Beeks calls HIT “one of the most treasured jewels in our family entertainment crown.” The addition of the line will make Lionsgate the No. 3 distributor of nontheatrical family home entertainment programming, with a projected market share of 15%, up from the current 9%.

The deal covers not just DVD distribution, but also electronic sellthrough.

Lionsgate's other family properties include Scholastic's Clifford the Big Red Dog, American Greetings' The Care Bears, MGA's Bratz and Marvel Animated Features.

HIT was founded in 1989 as a third-party distributor of children's product, headquartered in the United Kingdom. The company launched with 60 episodes of “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” Eight years later, HIT set up its own model animation studio, HOT Animation, whose first project was Bob the Builder.

Barney came to HIT via the 2001 acquisition of Dallas-based Lyrick Studios, while Thomas the Tank Engine came into the company's fold a year later when it acquired the family entertainment studio Gullane Entertainment PLC.

HIT was sold by founder and chairman Peter Orton in 2005 to a private equity firm, Apax Partners, for 489 million euros. A year later, HIT entered into a sales, marketing and distribution deal with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Orton died last December after a long struggle with cancer.

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