A small consortium that includes co-managing directors Paul Wiegard and Tim Anderson have paid $20m (A$21.5m) for Australian independent distributor Madman Entertainment.
The deal means the company has come full circle. Wiegard and Anderson established Madman 18 years ago, sold it to public toy and confectionary company Funtastic Pty Ltd a decade later and, with the help of new partners, have now bought it back from Funtastic.
“We are meaningfully and materially involved,” Wiegard told ScreenDaily when asked the extent of he and Anderson’s shareholding. “We have a lot of skin in the game – and a few limbs.”
The new owner-partners are Brett Chenoweth, Adrian Mckenzie and Charbel Nader, who have considerable media experience between them. Heavily involved were James Tonna and Brian Anketell from the Commonwealth Bank.
Wiegard said Madman’s appetite for content “will only grow” under the new arrangements and it is likely to uphold its reputation for its eclectic taste.
It’s biggest theatrical performers so far this year are The Trip To Italy, which has grossed $2.6m (A$2.78m) and is now in its ninth week in cinemas, The Lunchbox ($869,000) and The Wind Rises ($501,000).
The Keeper Of Lost Causes has just been released under a new distribution joint venture with public broadcaster SBS.
The coming month will see the release of 20,000 Days On Earth, Locke and What We Do In The Shadows. The next with SBS will be Two Days, One Night, winner of this year’s Sydney Film Prize.
Wiegard painted the buy-back as “the first phase in re-engineering” the business.
“We are absolutely stoked about getting closer to production and thank Screen Australia for backing us through the Enterprise Program,” he said.
“Mostly we are going to reignite the business by remaining relevant, frankly. This will be through constantly evolving and trialing new models of distribution and new ways of working with the myriad of stakeholders.
“It is a far more diverse and complicated industry than it once was and there is so much disruption. I think disruption creates opportunity. If you don’t embrace disruption, get out of the kitchen.”
Madman represents 85-95% of all anime content in the Australian marketplace and recently launched AnimeLab.
Still in the testing phase, some of the 65 to 70 programs and 600 to 700 hours of available content is released within hours of its Japanese broadcast and, in Australia, it is being watched almost exclusively on smart phones and tablets.
Madman has its roots in the physical (ie DVD) home entertainment market – one of the reasons for the original sale to Funtastic was to get more warehouse space – which has maintained its strength in Australia compared to many other territories.
“I would sooner have a very large market share in physical and be well placed to evolve the business into a digital environment than not to start with a physical media base,” added Wiegard.
He described Australia as having a voracious appetite, which unfortunately includes piracy.
Funtastic paid about $32.6m (A$35m) for Madman – via a combination of shares and cash and earn-outs – and six years later there was a significant asset write-down.