Everything old is new again at Alliance

Loewy back on top as MPD relaunches

TORONTO -- Ending a year of corporate disarray, Canadian movie distribution giant Motion Picture Distribution was relaunched Monday by Goldman Sachs & Co. as Alliance Films, with industry veteran Victor Loewy taking the reins as executive chairman.

Additionally, Goldman Sachs installed Charles Layton, former executive chairman at Miramax, as president of the company, while former Momentum Pictures executive Xavier Marchand was named president of international distribution.

The latest executive signings ends a year of corporate turmoil at Alliance Films, which is envied by industry rivals for plum output deals with New Line Cinema, Miramax, Focus Features and the Weinstein Co. Alliance Films also runs Viva Films, Quebec's largest distributor of English- and French-language films.

"It's back to normal," Loewy said Monday of a deck-clearing that sees MPD CEO John Bailey and executive managing director Jim Sherry leaving to make way for his new management team.

Marchand is returning to the MPD fold after he was suspended last February as managing director of London-based Momentum Pictures and Spain's Aurum Produccions, pending an internal probe into his conduct.

Loewy said that Marchand has effectively run MPD's European operations out of his home since February, and will now return to the fold.

The creation of Alliance Films follows last January's sale of MPD as part of the CAN$2.3 billion ($1.99 billion) takeover of Alliance Atlantis Communications by Goldman Sachs and Canadian partner CanWest Global Communications.

Goldman Sachs subsequently tapped Toronto-based equity investor EdgeStone Capital Partners to run Alliance Films, a move necessary to ensure it doesn't flout Canadian rules that bar foreign companies from controlling domestic movie distributors.

The Alliance Atlantis takeover was preceded by Loewy resigning from MPD as president over the firing of two key executives, Patrice Theroux and Patrick Laberge.

Only weeks after he quit, MPD-parent Alliance Atlantis rehired Loewy as an independent consultant in a bid to keep New Line from ending its long-standing output deal with the Canadian distributor.

Now hired by Goldman Sachs to run the new shop, Loewy said the greatest expansion for Alliance Films will come across the Atlantic.

"It is our intention to grow, especially in Europe. Now we have the means to buy even more films for those territories and to expand into other territories," he said.

Loewy added that Alliance Films has less room to grow in Canada, given its already dominant market share.

He also expressed confidence that he will be able to re-up output deals with such studios as New Line and Miramax, when they come due in 2008 and 2009.

"I've renewed those deals I don't know how many times. It's a routine thing. Our results speak for themselves," Loewy said.

Alliance Films faces competition from a number of new Canadian market entrants for its various output deals.

The new players include former MPD executive Theroux, who recently launched an international film releasing business here for North American specialty distributor Entertainment One, and producer Robert Lantos, who two weeks ago launched a Canadian film distribution company -- Maximum Films -- with an international film sales arm.