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Weinsteins Unveil New DVD Venture; Wellspring Included in Plans

Weinsteins Unveil New DVD Venture; Wellspring Included in Plans

[EDITORS NOTE: This story was updated on Tuesday morning.]

Fleshing out another key element, The Weinstein Company announced Monday that it would launch a new venture to distribute its films on home video and DVD, rather than partner with an existing Hollywood studio on the potentially lucrative ancillary market. The deal with Genius Products Inc. includes theatrical and DVD distributor Wellspring Media and its more than 700 title library, acquired earlier this year by Genius as part of its deal for American Vantage Media Corporation. In a conversation with indieWIRE Tuesday, the head of the new venture spoke with indieWIRE about the impact of this announcement on Wellspring.

The Weinsteins will own 70% of the new venture, named Genius Products, LLC, while the existing Genius group will own 30% of the venture. Interestingly part of the deal are releases of IFC Films‘ titles previously announced as part of a Rainbow Media pact with TWC, as well as Genius’ Sundance Channel Home Entertainment label, among other brands.

An announcement Monday indicated that the venture would release 20 TWC theatrical titles annually and as many as 30 direct-to-video titles each year. Its first releases are anticipated in March of next year and the deal for the new venture is expected to close in the first quarter of 2006.

Genius leadership praised the Weinsteins as the “founders of the modern independent film business,” during a call with investors on Tuesday morning. Genius chairman Steve Bannon told investors that the move marks the culmination of a 9 month process to transform the company, which he said began in February with the naming of Trevor Drinkwater as CEO and the subsequent acquisition of Wellspring. Drinkwater will run the day-to-day operations of the new venture, with Warren Lieberfarb on board as a consultant to TWC and a liaison with Genius Products.

In a conversation with indieWIRE on Tuesday, CEO Trevor Drinkwater said that Wellspring will continue to maintain a theatrical distribution business within this new venture. He told indieWIRE that the Wellspring releases would include both straight-to-DVD and some theatrical releases. Reiterating that Genius would continue to support the Wellspring theatrical and home entertainment distribution business he cited the recent success of “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” and the upcoming “Unknown White Male” and added that Wellspring would not release films that are competitive with the Weinsteins.

“I think that Wellspring will be strengthened under this deal,” Drinkwater explained. However, he added that some details have still to be determined, including the number of Wellspring releases annually.

“This agreement fulfills our vision to both control and deliver our content directly to retail,” said Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein in a statement Monday. “Genius Products’ strong retail relationships, coupled with its understanding of content and marketing, provide us with a partner that helps to complete the circle of our developing company.”

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