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Vivendi Visual Goes Theatrical

6 Mar, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Universal Music Group Distribution's home video arm announced it is venturing beyond DVD distribution and into theatrical releasing.

As part of the move, the division's name is being shortened from Vivendi Visual Entertainment (VVE) to, simply, Vivendi Entertainment. And Tom O'Malley, GM since VVE was set up in September 2004, becomes president.

Vivendi Entertainment plans on partnering with filmmakers to distribute a slate of between eight and 14 films a year. The new theatrical unit will provide a full menu of theatrical distribution and marketing services, as well as coordinate print and advertising funding. Distribution will be overseen by industry veteran Mike Doban, who reports to O'Malley.

Jim Urie, president and CEO of Universal Music Group Distribution, calls the expansion into theatrical releasing “a natural evolution for us.”

O'Malley, who continues to report to Urie, said the establishment of a theatrical division allows Vivendi to expand services to customers and gain market share.

“With this expansion, we offer our partners a full array of distribution services, including theatrical, DVD, digital and TV sales,” O'Malley said. “This will only position Vivendi Entertainment for even more growth.”

The new theatrical division officially launched March 6. Negotiations are still ongoing for the first release, although it will likely come from one of Vivendi Entertainment's existing partner studios. Vivendi currently provides DVD, digital and TV distribution services to a confederation of independent film companies and DVD labels such as Uwe Boll's Event Films, Shout! Factory, Palm Pictures and Code Black, the latter specializing in urban fare. The company does not acquire or produce programming on its own.

The same model will apply to theatrical distribution, O'Malley said.

“We offer an alternative to filmmakers in that we do not produce our own films. Instead our business model exists to provide focus and dedicated distribution and marketing services,” he said. “The cornerstones for the company will continue to be collaboration and financial transparency.”

Doban, whom O'Malley has tapped to head Vivendi Entertainment's new theatrical distribution unit, has 27 years of experience in theatrical distribution and exhibition, 15 of them at United Artists. He also is a cofounder of Freestyle Releasing, where he supervised such releases as The Illusionist and An American Haunting. Since its launch more than three years ago, Vivendi has built an extensive catalog of more than 1,000 titles, which are distributed in more than 85,000 retail locations. While initially focused only on DVD, the company also has sought to capitalize on the emerging digital distribution business through a multimillion-dollar digital infrastructure that provides asset management, distribution and reporting.

Vivendi also provides a comprehensive and integrated television release strategy across all television windows.

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