Datty Ruth back in the game

Former VCL chief partners with CCV Entertainment

CANNES -- Datty Ruth, head of one-time indie giant VCL, is staging a cautious comeback at Cannes as he teams up with Scandinavian group CCV Entertainment to get back in the business of theatrical acquisitions.

VCL and CCV have signed an agreement to jointly acquire titles for Germany and Scandinavia. In addition to the acquisitions agreement, CCV is looking to take a direct stake in VCL and is currently doing due diligence on the Munich-based company.

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While VCL's focus in past years has been direct-to-DVD and niche markets, Ruth told THR his focus is shifting to theatrical titles. The last theatrical buy for VCL was the Jackie Chan starrer "Forbidden Kingdom," which bowed in Germany through Senator's Central label.

VCL plans to bankroll the German theatrical rollout of acquired titles through tapping P&A fund Paco, which can finance up to 75% of P&A for a release of 50-500 prints in Germany. Ruth holds an equity stake in Paco, which is backed by cash from Future Capital Partners and Aramid Entertainment.

CCV is growing fast, thanks to new private equity owners, which snatched up the Norwegian video group and are rolling out theatrical operations across Scandinavia. CCV's recent pick ups include the Kristen Stewart/James Gandolfini starrer "Welcome to the Rileys," actioner "Ironclad" and Tom DiCillo's Doors doc "When You're Strange."

"We want to be very aggressive here at the market, bring back a bit of the rock-and-roll that has been missing since so much equity left (with the economic collapse)," CCV Entertainment head Albert Avramovic said.

Avramovic used to head Scandi distributor Noble Entertainment, which is restructuring to try and avoid collapse.

Ruth also is looking to pay down the debt at VCL's listed parent company VCL Film + Media in order to tap fresh capital directly from the stock market. VCL has signed a letter of agreement for a loan from UK-based SpiritOn Mediaand has been in talks to sell a significant equity stake in VCL Film + Media to Adi Cohen's Regal Entertainment.

"It's not all done yet but if this works then, yes, it will be a comeback for VCL," Ruth said.

Just over 10 years ago, at the height of the Internet bubble, VCL went public on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Ruth plowed his new capital into film financing deals with Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola and bought a piece of the "Terminator" franchise. But when the bubble burst, VCL nearly went bust. Since then, Ruth and his company have been wandering in the wilderness. The new agreement with CCV could mark a return to the game.