It’s a Republic wrap

Spelling ankles homevid biz as Artisan steps in

Spelling Entertainment Group has confirmed that it is pulling out of the home entertainment business, folding its Republic Entertainment subsidiary and licensing its library to Artisan Entertainment (Daily Variety, Sept. 9).

The move, which follows the closure of Spelling Films earlier this year, is part of SEG’s overall plan to return to being a “pure-play television production and distribution company.”

Artisan has concluded a seven-year deal with SEG to distribute its 3,000 pics and TV programs on homevideo and digital videodisc in North America. Republic previously handled the catalog.

SEG will retain ownership of the titles, as well as the Republic name and logo. Neither Artisan nor SEG would disclose the financial details of their arrangement.

Ceases to exist

Under the deal, Republic, which has around 36 staffers, will cease to exist as a separate company.

“We will retain the strategic value of our homevideo library, generate meaningful cash flow and eliminate our homevideo infrastructure,” SEG prexy Peter Bachmann said.

Bachmann made the announcement with Artisan Home Entertainment prexy Steve Beeks, a former president of home entertainment at Republic.

The once-prestigious Republic banner — which in its heyday was a prolific, full-fledged Hollywood studio — had become a pure vidpic producer and distributor in the last 10 years.

The company ceased film production two years ago. It withdrew from video rental last March in order to focus on sell-through.

A contributing factor

In a prepared statement, Republic president Robert Sigman indicated that the new direct video rental agreements between the top retailers and the studios had contributed to SEG’s decision, as well as the drop-off in the sell-through market for B-titles.

“Changes in the homevideo business make it difficult to realize the full value of the library Republic managed without critical mass and broad-based distribution,” he said.

Republic’s library contains a number of gems from its golden years, including “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “High Noon,” “The Quiet Man” and 49 other John Wayne starrers.

Artisan, which said its push would be primarily on the sell-through, also gets Republic’s many contemporary, genre-driven titles. These include “Bound,” starring Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly, “Stephen King’s Thinner” and two “Highlander” pics.

The library also contains home entertainment rights to successful TV shows such as David Lynch’s cult hit “Twin Peaks.”

The transition

Spelling said that Sigman would remain in his post for the near future to oversee the transition to Artisan.

A number of other staffers will remain with him. Others will be let go, although SEG said decisions on who and when had yet to be taken.

But with no production and minimal distribution duties, the number of employees staying on is likely to be small.

(Andrew Hindes in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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