Dendy takeover stirs up Oz arthouse biz

SYDNEY — The recent takeover of the Dendy arthouse film exhibition and distribution group by film and TV producer-distrib the Becker Group may be just the start of a reshuffle in Oz’s upmarket film distribution sector.

“The acquisition will enhance Becker’s presence in theatrical film distribution in the Australian market and provide the platform for the development of strategic alliances with other exhibitors to further strengthen the quality film circuit,” managing director Richard Becker said.

Dendy principals Lyn McCarthy and Graeme Tubbenhauer will, under contract to Becker, continue to manage Dendy as a separate businesses unit of Becker, whose interests include L.A.’s Becker FilmWorks.

The deal, which is expected to be completed in August, includes Dendy’s four Sydney and two Brisbane screens and Dendy’s theatrical, video, TV and feevee rights to 94 films.

Becker, whose company brought in about $20 million from an IPO and stock exchange listing last year, said he expects Dendy to acquire a greater number of more specialized films, while Becker’s REP distribution arm will now tend toward less arty fare.

At the same time, Sydney-based international sales agent Beyond Films is understood to be prepping an entry into the Oz domestic distribution biz. Sources say Beyond will either establish a full-fledged theatrical releasing banner or handle publicity and marketing itself, while farming out its dispatch and backroom functions to Columbia TriStar, with whom negotiations are proceeding.

While no deal has yet been signed with Columbia and nothing has been put to Beyond’s board, Beyond is understood to be close to inking a deal to acquire a slate of foreign titles for its new banner to release in Oz.

Meantime, indie distrib Globe, which has a first-look deal with Ciby, denied rumors it was poised to be taken over by Polygram as “absolutely not true,” although Polygram topper Richard Sheffield didn’t return calls. If such a deal occurred, it would probably mean the termination of Globe’s dispatch deal with UIP.

Becker, who says an increasingly crowded arthouse market is fueling the movements, said, “You’ll see more distributors feeling the pinch and I think there’ll be more of these occurrences because the market is very overheated and has to correct itself.”

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