MGM, Annapurna Team for Distribution Label United Artists Releasing

Megan Ellison Producers Guild Awards - Getty - H 2018
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Annapurna founder Megan Ellison will serve on the board of the new entity, which will release both MGM and Annapurna titles.

Following several months of upheaval, Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures is doubling down on its distribution partnership with MGM by teaming on the U.S. theatrical distribution banner United Artists Releasing.

Ellison will serve on the board of the new label, which will release all MGM and Annapurna titles and comes two years after the Zero Dark Thirty financier and producer announced the creation of its stand-alone distribution venture.

In January 2017, Annapurna announced that it would launch a theatrical distributor arm, marking its evolution from a deep-pocketed production company to a full-fledged indie studio. Later that year, MGM tapped Annapurna to distribute its films. Under that venture, MGM and Annapurna released Creed II, which earned an impressive $115 million at the domestic box office late last year.

While Annapurna has received major awards attention, the company has had a tough run at the box office, with its recent release Vice pulling in $44 million at the domestic box office despite a $60 million budget. The United Artists Releasing news comes on the heels of Annapurna unloading a series of films including Jay Roach's untitled Fox News movie starring Charlize Theron and the Jennifer Lopez-Constance Wu stripper thriller The Hustlers at Scores. At the same time, president of film Chelsea Barnard exited abruptly.

United Artists Releasing will be overseen by a board of directors from both Annapurna and MGM, including Ellison, MGM worldwide motion picture president Jonathan Glickman, MGM COO Chris Brearton and Annapurna president of business and legal affairs Chris Corabi. Annapurna president of marketing David Kaminow and president of distribution Erik Lomis will manage the venture with the label's newly appointed COO, Sony alum Pam Kunath.

Joining United Artists Releasing will be members of Annapurna’s one-time theatrical releasing arm, including president of publicity Adriene Bowles, creative advertising president Michael Pavlic and media head Anne Yoo. For its part, MGM will move its theatrical distribution team from Orion Pictures, which MGM relaunched in September 2017. Orion executive vp distribution Kevin Wilson will assume the role of general sales manager at the new label and will report directly to Lomis. (Orion will continue its operations as a production and acquisition label at MGM.) 

United Artists Releasing will be housed in a West Hollywood office space, separate from Annapurna's West Hollywood base and MGM's Beverly Hills offices. Staff located in New York will continue to work out of Annapurna’s Manhattan offices, located in SoHo.

Current plans are to release between 10 to 14 movies a year under the label. Laika feature The Missing Link will be the first film released under the United Artists Label, with later titles including splashy offerings like Dwayne Johnson's Fighting With My Family, Richard Linklater's Where'd You Go, Bernadette adaptation and the 25th installment in the James Bond franchise.

In addition to their own features, the studios say that they would work third-party filmmakers and production companies to release films through the United Artists label. They hope to to offer an alternative distribution option outside the studio system. 

“We are excited to evolve our partnership and are honored to carry out projects under United Artists’ remarkable legacy established over the last 100 years. Most notably, we are thrilled to welcome the Bond franchise home to United Artists, with the release of Bond 25 next year,” said Glickman. “The United Artists brand is a natural fit, as our joint venture was founded around the same principle as its namesake: to help filmmakers maintain financial and artistic control over the marketing and distribution of their diverse slate of films."

Added Ellison: “With the major corporations continuing to consolidate, I believe it is important to have an independent option to provide a sanctuary where we can bring forth transparency, dedication, and fair treatment for all the films we have and will continue to love and service. Our team is comprised of not only the most talented executives in the business but also true lovers of film and to take on this initiative with MGM is as exciting as it is promising."