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Video Suppliers Scope Out Deals at American Film Market

5 Nov, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

Early into the 25th annual American Film Market (AFM), video suppliers were already carving out their niches in product sales and acquisitions.Image Entertainment announced, in conjunction with AFM, that it will team up to co-produce feature films with London-based indie producer ContentFilm for future theatrical and direct-to-video releases.

“It's part of our overall strategy of moving more into the studio space,” said Barry Gordon, SVP of acquisitions for Image.

ContentFilm — which earlier this year pursued a since-failed deal to purchase First Look Media for $12 million — has a strong reputation in the international independent film world, he added, thanks in part to the company's co-CEO Ed Pressman, who has an impressive track record and reputation producing high-profile indie films like The Cooler, Harvard Man and Party Monster.

The two companies initially plan three to four film releases a year, which will be jointly produced, financed, and distributed by Image and ContentFilm under a new ContentFilm Home Video label. The companies will share copyrights, and the films will be intended for theatrical release, with the revenue primarily driven by worldwide DVD distribution.

This summer, Image also teamed up with Los Angeles-based Dark Horse Entertainment to form the Dark Horse Home Entertainment for the joint production, distribution and co-ownership of direct-to-video projects as well as theatrical releases, animated content and soundtrack albums.

With these two new deals, the market (and the company's competitors) should start to see Image Entertainment in a new light, Gordon said.

“The merger of Lions Gate and Artisan sort of left a vacuum open for the next mini-major to emerge,” he said. “What this really does is position Image to move into that space.”

Larry Brahms, president of MTI Home Video, and Jay Grossman, VP of acquisitions and sales, MTI, were on hand at AFM for their third year. By the end of day two, they had firmed up deals on eight titles for the company's pipeline — seven from MTI's partner Artist View.

MTI's approach to the market is a little different this year, since the company has only recently begun releasing product into the sellthrough market.

Everyone's a little more conservative at the market these days, Brahms said.

“There's less cash now and less shelf space,” he said. “We really have to carefully look for product we can take around to our rental accounts and then a year from now, to the mass merchant retailers. We can't take a title that will do well in rental, but not sellthrough. We won't survive it.”

AFM was a strong buyer's market this year, Brahms said. He was able to get bids in on product early because sellers are hungry for buyers. He also said producers are more interested than in past years in talking about DVD distribution deals even if there's no theatrical component included.

“More people are listening to alternate ways of marketing,” Brahms said.First Look Home Entertainment representatives were active in the market's early days, attending screenings and looking for titles to add to the company's theatrical and video lineup.

It was the second appearance at AFM for Ardustry Entertainment. Phyllis Samaan, director of international sales for the company, said she expected it to be a healthy sales ground for the company's slate of special interest and documentary product. Ardustry did really well with this product last year at AFM, even though the company was advised to focus on feature films, she said.

“But we seem to get more interest in episodic and special interest stuff,” Samaan said. “It really is an anything-goes kind of market.”

IDT Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment used the festival to whet buyers' appetites for an upcoming slate of horror titles, which will hit video through Anchor Bay.

The “Masters of Horror” series will feature about 13 hourlong horror features from acclaimed directors of the genre like John Carpenter, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, John Landis and George Romero.

The films will begin production this spring through IDT's newly launched New Arc Entertainment, in conjunction with Industry Entertainment and Nice Guy Productions and some will be available on DVD by next Halloween, said Ted Green, CEO of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

“We're going into the making of these knowing that we're aiming for a strong DVD sales presence so there will be a ton of extras,” Green said.

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