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Westlake Goes Urban and Latino

20 Jun, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

'Animal Rescue'

In a mature DVD market, Westlake Entertainment Inc. is growing up.

The supplier is under new ownership from industry vets Luke Stefanko and Larry Cohen. Another longtime video professional, Tony Vandeveerdonk, joined the team this week as VP of sales.

Westlake, which has historically dealt in public-domain, budget and super-niche titles, is moving into aggressive acquisitions of first-run independent film as well as urban and Latin product.

The company hopes to release 30 titles in its first year of renewed purpose, said owner Larry Cohen.

He sees plenty of life in DVD. Westlake's team is pounding the retail pavement, meeting with major chains.

Wal-Mart has warmly received the company's first two titles, Animal Rescue Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, he said. The $9.98 DVDs street July 18 and feature the best dog and cat rescues from the Emmy winning TV series “Animal Rescue.”

Shelf space continues to be a huge issue on the retail front lines of course, Cohen said.

Westlake has also brokered a relationship with Red Bull energy drink and its sponsored series of extreme-sports programming, which could be perfect for the digital download and mobile market, Cohen said.

With any dealmaking, it's important to keep a future mobile strategy in mind, even for a small supplier like Westlake, he said.

“It's something were absolutely involved in,” he said. “Though I think it s hard to say that people have figured out a cogent download and mobile strategy.”

Westlake execs are hitting up film festivals around the country to scope out new product.

As for the company's roots in the public domain business?“It's pretty much in the past,” Cohen said. “Of course we have accounts that we still sell to but this is definitely a new Westlake.”

Westlake serves as a distributor for the following labels: Phoenix Entertainment (urban and Latino product), Illumitoon Entertainment (anime), Desert Mountain Media (Latino), Red Bull USA (extreme sports) and Cineville Films (theatrical features). Westlake also sells its product to the overseas marketplace through its international arm, Cinema Management Group.

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