Sundance 2012: Cinedigm Adds Digital Distribution

Cinedigm Entertainment Logo - H 2011

Cinedigm Entertainment Logo - H 2011

Joint venture with New Video seen providing opportunities for indie filmmakers to get their movies into theaters, on home video and out through digital distribution.

After months of searching for an acquisition or partner to expand its distribution capabilities, Cinedigm Entertainment Group has formed a joint venture with New York-based New Video aimed at providing independent filmmakers with multi-platform opportunities to release their movies in North American theaters, on cable, VOD, DVD/Blu-ray and on digital distribution platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and ITunes.

“Adding in Cinedigm’s quality digital theatrical capabilities to New Video’s proven expertise opens up a unique and advantageous release opportunity for independent filmmakers in all key channels of distribution,” said Cinedigm Chairman and CEO Chris McGurk, who made the announcement Sunday along with Steve Savage, who is co-president of New Video along with Susan Margolin.

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Since taking over as head of Cinedigm in January 2011, McGurk has been remaking the company, which in the past we mainly known for converting movie theaters from film to digital presentation. Last July, Cinedigm sold the division that delivered physical and electronic content to theaters to Technicolor in return for cash and an agreement for Technicolor to use Cinedigm’s digital cinema operational software.

In September, Cinedigm its cinema advertising division, which provides pre-show advertising, to Screenvision.

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Cinedigm has moved rapidly to become a supplier of alternate content to movie theaters including live 2D and 3D sporting events, concerts, shorts, cartoons, live Q&As and branded entertainment.  Recent releases include a Foo Fighters performance in 3-D, the FIFA World Cup Championship, the BCS Championship in3D, 3D PHISH concerts and of independent films.

McGurk has said he wants to create channels that will regularly present programming and movies in theaters at times auditoriums are usually empty, like on weeknights. As part of his plan, he has been looking for a distributor that could provide additional distribution of the same content in all the after-markets, which is the role that New Video will now take.

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One of the unique things Cinedigm proposes is making movie theater owners partners by offering them a share not only of what their content makes in theaters, but also in the aftermarkets, which will now be served through New Video.

McGurk calls New Video “a little gem” of a company that “has been flying under the radar.”

Founded nearly 20 years ago, New Video has expanded from traditional home entertainment distribution into digital content. One of its specialties is aggregating content – movies, TV and other visual art – and then packaging it and selling it through relationships it has with many digital streaming services around the world.  Among companies for whom it has packaged and distributed content digitally is A+E,  History channel, Lifetime, Scholastic, and indie film producers inducing Arthouse Films, Plexifilm and Tribeca Film. Those have included in recent years the 2011 films Gasland, Waste Land and  Restrepo.

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“There is opportunity and demand for great independent cinema. Cinedigm and New Video are creating a new distribution model that’s specifically designed to maximize today’s fast-moving digital landscape,” said Savage. “Together, our acquisitions teams will target both talent-driven independent films with broad appeal, as well as niche or specialty releases.”

The joint venture is effective immediately. McGurk and Savage, along with their teams, are in Sundance this week looking to acquire product to put through their new combined pipeline.

Cinedigm, which is a public company, closed at $1.40 a share Friday on NASDAQ, down from $2.60 a share last April. New Video is privately held.

The announcement did not disclose how long the joint venture runs. Sources said that is because this may be a prelude to the eventual acquisition of New Video by Cinedigm if things go well.