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Lara Thompson, eOne: buying power

eOne is one of the industry’s most significant buyers. Andreas Wiseman speaks to EVP of filmed entertainment Lara Thompson about the company’s Cannes acquisition strategy.

Recent markets have been awash with chatter about eOne’s blockbuster acquisition of Alliance Films, which created one of the industry’s most comprehensive and diffuse acquisitions groups. Spanning three continents, the $230m Alliance takeover saw eOne add Spain to an already impressive distribution network that encompasses Canada, the UK, Australia, Benelux and the US, and sub-distribution agreements in France, Germany, South Korea, Scandinavia and South Africa.

Lara Thompson, eOne’s Los Angeles-based acquisitions head, has been busily planning for the future. A six-year veteran at eOne, Thompson was promoted to EVP of filmed entertainment just before Cannes 2012, and was formerly SVP of worldwide acquisitions at Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group.

While the Alliance takeover saw a number of experienced executives depart, Thompson managed to keep her team intact. And the changes have not affected their outlook, she says. “My team has been rock solid during this period. We have been 100% focused. We are very well placed to cover all the material in terms of personnel. And in terms of the way we work, it will be the same — my team gathers all the information, we disseminate it to the territories and then we work collaboratively to pick out what we want to buy.”

Early offers

eOne picked up 20 films in Berlin this year, including The Good Lie, Our Kind Of Traitor and Yves Saint Laurent for multiple territories. Thompson and her team will now be looking to acquire early and often at Cannes, with the volume likely to approach 50 films across territories and windows. “Our philosophy will be the same as it always is,” she says. “We are looking to source commercial product by making aggressive early offers. Other than a few one-off acquisitions we will be building the backbone a couple of years ahead, so for 2014 and 2015. But it’s also important for us to maintain that local flavour as well. All our territories have had a lot of success with local films so while there is centralisation there is also a lot of autonomy.”

The addition of Spain represents a challenge, admits Thompson. “Spain is a very challenging market. But some things are still working well. Jorge [Vazquez] and Igor [Ibeas, respectively, managing director and deputy managing director in Spain] who I worked with while I was at Momentum [as VP of acquisitions, 2004-07], are experts in their field and will guide us well.”

The US remains largely a home entertainment business for eOne but the company is beginning to grow its theatrical ambitions in the territory. “The idea is to have a mixture of home entertainment, day-and-date and theatrical releases,” says Thompson. “Clearly the US is very competitive. But we have just acquired David Cronenberg’s Maps To The Stars, which will be our biggest theatrical release in the territory to date.”

Key to Thompson’s job will be overseeing eOne’s burgeoning roster of output deals. As a result of the acquisition of Alliance last year, the Canadian outfit inherited relationships with Lionsgate in Canada; Summit and Lionsgate in Spain; and Relativity in Canada and the UK. These complement eOne’s output deals with Summit for Canada, the UK and Australia/New Zealand and David Linde’s Lava Bear for the UK, Canada and Benelux, plus agreements with Lakeshore, Morgan Creek, Remstar and Wrekin Hill.

Producer relationships

With former Alliance executive Xavier Marchand having decided to stay on at eOne to spearhead the company’s production push, he will bring with him a slate of impressive producer relationships — all of which Thompson needs to factor into the slate. These include Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions (Sinister, Insidious), Iain Canning and Emile Sherman’s See-Saw (The King’s Speech) and Hammer Productions and Exclusive Media (The Woman In Black). eOne is also due to distribute former Alliance project Suite Francaise starring Michelle Williams and Matthias Schoenaerts in the UK, Canada and Spain.

The company also recently signed a first-look financing and distribution output deal with US-based producer 1984 Private Defense Contractors, whose slate includes gangster thriller Corsica 72 from Skyfall writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and its relationship with Lava Bear means it has a close eye on the likes of Ben Wheatley’s Freakshift.

And with eOne likely to add another territory to its repertoire in the coming year, Thompson’s diary looks set to become that little bit busier still.

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