Summit spreads its wings

Pacts for Canada, U.K. output

TORONTO --Summit Entertainment has pacted with Canadian movie distributor Entertainment One, which will release Summit's movies in Canada and the U.K. through 2010.

The multiterritory deal, announced Wednesday and covering all rights including home entertainment and VOD, is the latest output deal signed by Canadian distributors as private-equity funds continue to help underwrite the international film business.

Toronto-based Entertainment One said its Seville Entertainment division will release Summit titles in Canada, including films Summit produces and those where it controls North American rights.

The first Summit title covered by the Entertainment One agreement in Canada is the thriller "P2," scheduled for a Nov. 9 release.

Entertainment One will use its subsidiary, Contender Films, to handle Summit titles in the U.K. Summit International, Summit's foreign sales arm, will continue to handle Summit's third-party films in the U.K. because the agreement doesn't include films that Summit doesn't produce or finance.

The distribution deal was hammered out by Summit COO Bob Hayward and Entertainment One CEO Darren Throop and Patrice Theroux, the newly installed president of its filmed entertainment division.

"The combination of Entertainment One's public backing and their commitment to the Canadian and U.K. marketplaces allows Summit the best opportunity to have our films succeed and reach the broadest possible audiences both in the theatrical and home entertainment marketplaces," Summit co-chairmen Robert Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger said.

Summit plans to release 10-12 films a year. The company recently picked up North American rights to Mark Palansky's debut feature, "Penelope," starring Christina Ricci and Reese Witherspoon.

In recent weeks, Entertainment One partnered with rival Canadian distributor Maximum Films to secure Canadian rights to a slate of Magnolia Pictures and HDNet titles, and Maximum Films reached separate output deals with IFC Films and Fortissimo Films.

The recent spate of Canadian distribution agreements comes as U.S. movie producers, flush with investment from hedge funds, find homes for their product.

Former Paramount COO Friedman and Summit Entertainment president and CEO Wachsberger launched the shingle in April, backed by more than $1 billion in funding from Merrill Lynch and other investors (HR 4/20).

Canadian distributors bidding for U.S. films in turn want to chip away at the dominant market position held by Alliance Films, Canada's largest independent distributor.