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eOne aims to release most UK films, add another territory in 2013, build on US partnerships

EXCLUSIVE: Alex Hamilton and Patrice Theroux discuss the structure of the eOne-Alliance merger; Lara Thompson, Robert Walak and Jo Sweby will lead acquistion team in Berlin.

“This integration is very exciting,” eOne’s Patrice Theroux told Screen yesterday after the company announced that its director of films Alex Hamilton would lead the eOne-Momentum outfit in the UK. “We’re creating something quite unique with very significant clout and market share”.

Screen sat down with Théroux, who leads eOne’s global film business, and UK MD Hamilton, to discuss the future ambitions of the new super-indie.

Volume, “local” films

“The volume of films on the slate will increase” the two executives agreed. “In 2013, the two companies together will have large slates so it may be that we do not replicate that number of films in 2014 and 2015,” said Hamilton.

However, both agreed that going forward eOne is likely to theatrically release more films than any other UK distributor. The type of product will vary, and include franchises, British films and “specialised” films, including foreign language titles:

“There will be a good variety of films,” said Theroux, “from specialised limited releases to very wide release like a Twilight.”

Both eOne and Momentum have seen great returns from UK titles and British films will play an increasingly important role for the new company: “On a global basis being involved with local production is a key part of what we do. My brief to all the MDs is to do more of that. If in 2012 one company claims to distribute the most UK movies, let’s be that company next year,” said Theroux.

“A number of British films have been very successful in the market for us”, added Hamilton, “including Nativity, The Angels’ Share, and The Sweeney. Nativity is a great example of a UK film that came from outside the London infrastructure. It was a delight to work on.”

“Historically, eOne hasn’t released some of those niche films like Momentum’s Scandinavian thrillers,” continued Hamilton. “We’re conscious of the fact that there is good business in those films. We need to look for content in an exhaustive manner.

Both executives agreed that the biggest challenges posed by the UK market are the high cost of theatrical releasing and the decline in the DVD business.

Partnerships

The potential for more partnerships with key creatives and financiers are a live possibility for eOne. “We’ll look at the talent and consider whether it makes sense for us, including opportunities like slate deals,” Theroux added.

“Emerging talents are very important for us. You don’t run successful global business in the independent space without that connect. Some US studios are satisfied with 18 films originated from Hollywood but for us local is key.”

He described Alliance’s distribution deal with US outfit Automatik as a “very interesting strategy” and said: “Discussions with the likes of Automatik are being clarified now. Our intention is to continue in that vein. I can see more creative and financial partnerships with the US. Aligning ourselves with people who can produce things that work in the market-place is key for us.”

Team

The fully formed team is still taking shape. eOne has already announce the departures of Charles Layton and Victor Loewy from Alliance and Charles Ogilvie on the eOne side.

Adam Hurst will transition from his current role as eOne’s deputy CFO to take on the role of finance director. In Spain, Jorge Vazquez will serve as managing director and Igor Ibeas will serve as deputy managing director.

Robert Walak, SVP worldwide acquisitions for Alliance, will be with the team in Berlin alongside Lara Thompson and Jo Sweby of eOne.

But Theroux confirmed that there will be changes in the coming months: “There will be rationalisation. We will be consolidating the team in the UK and Canada. The resulting team will be bigger than any of the two companies were originally but changes have already started. We’re hoping to have final structure within 90 days.”

Theroux said the company is in discussion with Momentum president of worldwide distribution Xavier Marchand and “intends to make an announcement on that in the next few weeks”.

The two teams will continue to operate in separate offices for now but the ambition is to house the UK distribution, sales and TV team all under one roof.

Further expansion

The company’s distribution network now includes Canada, the US, UK, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Korea, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Further rollout is on the agenda.

“Further expansion into other markets is in our mind,” confirmed Theroux. “We’ll pause for integration but we’re thinking about the next phase. We’d like to add a territory in 2013.”

The company also sees scope for growth in its highly lucrative TV production business. “We can increase the volume of our TV product across the family-oriented product as well as the factual and fiction side,” said Theroux.

The incoming UK TV tax credit for high end drama also offers an opportunity. The company is already on board drama Rogue from Nick Hamm and Matthew Parkhill.

Theroux told Screen that as part of a more integrated company he hopes the London-based international sales team, led by Sally Caplan, will grow “tremendously”.  “We want the sales team in London to build our European appeal,” he added.

Anticipated eOne films on the combined release schedule now include Red 2, Mortal Instruments and Diana, which is slated for an autumn 2013 release. A third Nativity film is also likely to be developed.

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