TV Vets Plan Distribution Firm

Jan 9, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Television veterans Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein plan to create a new distribution company after landing the broadcast TV and cable rights to distribute films from Revolution Studios.

Mr. Marcus, former head of Miramax TV & Video and Buena Vista Television, and Mr. Bernstein, former president of worldwide television distribution for Lions Gate Entertainment, said they want to specialize in high-quality product.

“In a very, very short time we’re hoping that we’ve surfaced as a real player amongst the giants, and we’re trying to slide between the cracks and be thought of as someone important,” Mr. Marcus said.

The two men were already distributing Comedy Central’s “South Park” and Sci Fi Channel’s “Farscape” to TV stations when they landed the Revolution deal.

Mr. Marcus said it wasn’t clear whether his Debmar Studios and Mr. Bernstein’s Mercury Entertainment would be merged or a new company would be formed.

Revolution, which has Encore, Sony and Fox as outside investors, used Sony to distribute its pictures theatrically. It also has output deals with Encore for pay TV and Fox for broadcast and cable (FX).

But the studio turned to Mr. Marcus for syndication because of his relationship with Revolution partners Joe Roth and Rob Moore, according to a Revolution spokesman.

“Mort’s as talented a salesman as there is in the business, so to have him working on this personally on a full-time basis versus a sales team over at Sony or somewhere, that’s what they wanted to go with,” the spokesman said.

Mr. Marcus and Mr. Bernstein will distribute all of Revolution’s films produced through 2006, including 27 that have already been released. They include “America’s Sweethearts,” “Blackhawk Down,” “xXx,” “Anger Management,” “13 Going on 30,” “White Chicks,” “Mona Lisa Smile” and “Christmas With the Kranks.” Total box office on those films is $1.6 billion.

Mr. Marcus said he plans to bring the movie package to the upcoming National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas. Terms for the movie package haven’t been set.

The films have already been sold to Starz for pay TV and to Fox for as many as two airings on the Fox Broadcast Network as well as some runs on FX, Mr. Marcus said. But the arrangement gives him the ability to sell the films both to stations and to other broadcast and cable networks.

Selling the already released movies is just one part of the deal. In addition to those 27, Mr. Marcus and Mr. Bernstein will have a second package of Revolution movies to distribute in another 18 months, Mr. Marcus said.

He said there’s room for an independent distributor in today’s syndication. “There’s actually less companies in this area than there’s ever been before. All the companies are vertically integrated, so Ira and I are sort of finding that there seems to be a niche.”

He said that they have already received an “enormous number of calls” about distributing product. “For us, though, it’s not about quantity. We’re going to attempt to be about high-end product, so we’re going to be as selective as we can.”

With a small company, “You certainly don’t want to take out stuff that you have to beg people to buy,” Mr. Marcus said. “So we want the content to speak for itself, and so we’re going to attempt to bring out as compelling a product as we can so stations feel they need the product.”

Mr. Bernstein added, “We’re looking at it as a niche business, but we’re not looking at it as a small business. We can compete at any level that the studios compete at with studio-level product.”