Hopscotch MD Troy Lum talks to Screen about the deal.

One of Australia’s most admired theatrically-lead distribution companies, Hopscotch, is being bought by Entertainment One (eOne)  in a deal worth $21m (A$20m).

It is the first Australasia acquisition for the ambitious international entertainment group. The sale is likely to be completed on May 4.

“We are a company that has always been very successful but for us to keep growing we needed someone to come on board with resources and an international strategy,” Hopscotch managing director Troy Lum told ScreenDaily today. “We are buzzing about it.”

He first talked to eOne, at their instigation, a couple of years ago; those discussions ramped up in the last six months.

“This acquisition is another momentous step forward in building our multi-territory content ownership and distribution infrastructure,” said Darren Throop, president and CEO of eOne, in the media release issued today.

eOne’s fingers already reach into the UK, the US, Canada and Benelux. Hopscotch will be part of the filmed entertainment division which is headed by Patrice Theroux.

Lum said he did not expect the nature of the business to change much but bigger films — an example, Source Code, is out on May 5 — will feature more regularly on the release schedule.

Other upcoming films include Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, which was filmed in Melbourne, and Beginners. Barney’s Version is currently on release and the 15 titles released theatrically last year included The Wrestler and The Kids Are All Right. One of the most recent successful Australian films was Mao’s Last Dancer.

The company has a library of 300 feature film and television titles.

Lum confirmed that eOne is likely to strengthen a long-held ambition to enter into the production arena through Hopscotch Features, a collaboration with producer Andrew Mason (Tomorrow, When The War Began) and screenwriter John Collee (Master and Commander).

“There is going to be a lot of action in upcoming months,” said Lum. “We are aiming for a couple of films to go into production this year.”

He would not name the projects but the company is working with Australians Stephan Elliott (Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), Rachel Ward (Beautiful Kate), Chris Noonan (Miss Potter), Clayton Jacobson (Kenny) and Ray Lawrence (Lantana). On the co-production slate is the co-production Saving Mr Banks with Ruby Films in the UK.

At the end of last year Hopscotch announced a two-year first look deal which would see it and Universal Pictures International develop and produce Australian films with international appeal to be jointly distributed in Australia. This arrangement stays in place.

The Hopscotch sale price will be met with the issue of 4,126,636 shares and about $10.53m in cash. Documents state that Hopscotch generated unaudited revenue of $19.46m, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $3.1m.

Lum and the rest of the management team — Frank Cox, Sandi Don and Jude Troy — are staying on under eOne. Lum would not divulge how long this arrangement was contracted to remain in place.