Any time there is a merger or acquisition among major players, the knee-jerk industry reaction is that it’s bad news.
Part of our Canada Territory Focus includes an exclusive interview with eOne filmed entertainment president Patrice Theroux - perhaps the man to know in Canada following eOne’s acquisition of Alliance earlier this year to create Canada and the UK’s largest independent distributor.
Any time there is a merger or acquisition among major players, the knee-jerk industry reaction is that it’s bad news, that it removes one more funder or distributor from the landscape and it means fewer jobs at a combined company.
But there are also opportunities that come with consolidation. For starters, the might of eOne means it can and should invest in a way it couldn’t before. Canadian film-makers especially could benefit from eOne’s global power.
In the UK, the combination of eOne and Momentum leaves a gap for another large indie to build up its business - especially given Icon is concentrating on production (though there are rumours they could get back into the game, especially with a new Netflix deal to line its coffers).
Lionsgate UK already sits comfortably in that space, Entertainment has a solid pipeline, StudioCanal is faring well after Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and could have another hit with Ron Howard’s Rush, and the next one to approach Momentum levels could be Koch Media - which has entered the UK arena with relatively deep pockets. Plus, there’s at least one new distributor poised to launch in the UK later this year.
For smaller distributors, it means there is one less company bidding on mid-range independent films. Maybe smarter deals can be done with one less offer on the table. And the shifting landscape presents opportunities for smaller companies to grow with bigger films.
And while it won’t be a popular view for film-makers, there are too many films being released theatrically in most markets. So a combined company that presents a few less films in cinemas and more for home entertainment/VoD means a more manageable release load industry-wide, and less frazzled distributors and exhibitors fighting over screens.
That aspect could be more of a drawback in Canada though, where you need a local distributor on board to unlock Telefilm funding.
In Canada, some rival distributors tell Screen that eOne’s dominance does present new opportunities for them - D Films head of acquisitions Michael Robson smartly notes: “One company cannot do everything so we’re pretty excited to step up.”
Eyes are also on former Alliance CEO Victor Loewy - impeccably well-positioned to launch a new distributor. eOne may be the biggest, but it certainly won’t be the only player in town.
Wendy Mitchell is editor of Screen International