Shake-ups rock Canadian distributors


Canadian independent movie distributors are playing musical chairs these days after industry heavyweights ThinkFilm and Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution (MPD) were acquired by U.S.-based buyers.

The industry shake-up started in October 2006 with Toronto-based ThinkFilm leaving the Canadian market after being sold for a reported $25 million to Los Angeles-based David Bergstein and his film financing company, Capitol Films.

MPD, Canada's largest indie distributor, has been in ownership turmoil for much of the last year after president and CEO Patrice Theroux and his general counsel were fired last summer for attempting to engineer a management buyout financed by British hedge fund Marwyn Investment Management.

MPD chairman Victor Loewy resigned in protest, but was quickly rehired by controlling shareholder Alliance Atlantis Communications as an independent consultant to appease output supplier New Line Cinema.

Loewy is currently in negotiations to become CEO at MPD after it was sold earlier this year to Goldman Sachs and its Canadian partner, EdgeStone Capital Partners.

Marwyn, having failed to buy MPD, instead bought Toronto-based specialty distributor Entertainment One and most recently hired Theroux to launch an international movie distribution business. Its first acquisitions include rival Canadian movie distributor Seville Pictures and British DVD distributor Contender Entertainment.

Elsewhere, Maple Pictures is also looking to possibly pick off MPD's output deals with Miramax, New Line and other studio suppliers when they come up for renewal over the next two years.

But rival distributor Michael Mosca, senior vp and COO of Montreal-based Equinoxe Films, is less certain output partners can be easily peeled away from MPD.

"There's always that hope that something might slip through the cracks," says Mosca. "But Victor Loewy has a stronghold. Anyone who underestimates (MPD's) position is making a mistake."