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SPE going global, widening pipeline

Reflecting changes at the top at Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio’s homevid arm, Columbia TriStar Home Video, has widened the scope of its activities to include film acquisitions for the U.S. market in addition to its usual quest for product for its overseas pipeline.

Col TriStar VP of acquisitions and production Clint Culpepper and business affairs senior VP Peter Schlessel told Daily Variety, “We are looking for quality medium- to larger-budget films for the domestic market.” While they have not yet picked up any pics at AFM, Culpepper and Schlessel say their new focus comes from SPE’s new emphasis on global business strategies.

While in his previous post at MGM/UA, Sony co-chairman John Calley made a successful acquisition of the independently produced “Leaving Las Vegas” from Lumiere. Calley and SPE’s new motion picture group head Ken Lemberger are apparently taking that example to heart.

The entrance by the studios into the indie arena is putting increased competition prices for overseas indie distribs and forcing tough decisions among indie sellers who may have to choose between long-standing relationships and a studio deal.

“We are competing with territorial buyers,” admits Culpepper, but he says his advantage lies in offering quicker payment and a big studio push through all media. Indies hoping to beat out studio buyers may have to take a riskier approach by pre-buying projects on the basis of scripts, since Culpepper and Schlessel say they are mainly looking at promo reels and roughly finished works.

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