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Former MGM head Gary Barber is taking control of the film and TV assets that Lantern Entertainment acquired in the 2018 Weinstein Co. bankruptcy through a new partnership called Spyglass Media Group.
Barber will serve as chairman and CEO of the new development, finance and production company, which is described as a partnership in which Lantern Entertainment co-presidents Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic are majority investors.
“This is not a sale,” Mitchell said. “This is an increase in our collective investment in the business. Lantern Entertainment will be contributing 100 percent of its assets to Spyglass Media Group, which will be controlled day to day by Gary. Gary is making a substantial investment. We’re happy to be a majority investor, and we’ll be bringing in more and additional money and resources. This is a contribution of assets.”
Reiterating that point, Barber added, “It’s a combination of assets and an increase in financial capability and funding, together with adding some strategic investments.” Joining the venture with further equity investments are strategic partners are Eagle Pictures, the largest independent distributor in Italy, and Cineworld Group, the second-largest theater chain in the world. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.
Through the new venture, Spyglass will own and control all of Lantern Entertainment’s current assets, including more than 250 film library titles, such as The King’s Speech, The Artist, Inglorious Basterds, Silver Linings Playbook, Spy Kids and genre franchises Hellraiser and Scream, as well as scripted and unscripted television series, such as Project Runway, the fashion series which returns to Bravo on Thursday with new hosts Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano.
When they bought the TWC assets last May for $289 million in a bankruptcy sale, Texas-based private-equity investors Mitchell and Brajovic also inherited about 50 of TWC’s remaining employees at the time. Barber, Mitchell and Brajovic planned to meet with the staff on Wednesday, with Barber also promising that he will be soon be announcing additions to his senior leadership team, which will be headquartered in Century City.
As for distribution of its product, Barber said, “We’re going to be opportunistic right now. We’ll obviously have the appropriate discussions. But we will not directly get into distribution ourselves. We feel the distribution platforms that are out there are excellent, and we will take advantage of those opportunities to send our product through those distribution platforms.”
“Gary was out with his own business plan and his own investment partners, so we put that together into a larger combined business,” Mitchell commented. “We needed strong senior leadership and this is a natural fit. Gary’s been working with us for months behind the scenes. There should be no interruption of the business. Gary is going to take the keys, and we look forward to seeing what he can do.”
Lantern recently found box office success with The Upside, starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart, one of the unreleased TWC titles it had acquired, which it then distributed in partnership with STX Entertainment and which has grossed nearly $117 million worldwide to date.
The new Spyglass Media Group takes its name from the production company that Barber launched with former partner Roger Birnbaum in 1998. Fielding movies like The Sixth Sense, Bruce Almighty and Seabiscuit, the company grossed over $5 billion in worldwide box office and collected 34 Oscar nominations and four wins. Barber retains sequel and remake rights to those titles, which he is contributing to the new company. “I have control of the trademark and the label and have contributed that into the new venture. It’s a very well-known, iconic brand,” Barber added.
From 2010 to 2018, Barber served as CEO of MGM, where he helped shepherd the James Bond movies Skyfall and Spectre, revived the Rocky franchise with 2016’s Creed and ventured into the TV business with successful series like The Handmaid’s Tale and Fargo.
Andrea Goretti, CEO of Eagle Pictures, which has released films like The King’s Speech and Silver Linings Playbook in the past, said of the new venture in a statement: “Eagle Pictures and Gary have teamed up on high-quality projects for international distribution over the years. It is only fitting that we would expand that relationship and join forces on a strategic partnership for Spyglass. With Gary’s incomparable stewardship, the company’s valuable library assets, Eagle’s strong foothold in Europe and Cineworld’s tremendous worldwide footprint, Spyglass is well-positioned to be a prominent global content supplier.”
Added Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, which controls 9,518 screens in 10 countries: “We are thrilled to enter into a partnership with Spyglass and strengthen our 30-year relationship with Gary. We are proud to be part of this promising venture and are confident of its success.”
Moelis & Company LLC served as the exclusive financial advisor in connection with the transaction. Venable LLP acted as a legal advisor for Barber, and DLA Piper served as legal advisors for Lantern Entertainment.
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