Big E, H’wood Online to merge

Times Mirror picks up $31 mil in Web site deal

Big Entertainment Inc. on Monday said it plans to acquire Hollywood Online and its popular Web site hollywood.com from the Times Mirror Co. for $31 million in stock.

The Boca Raton, Fla.-based online vendor of licensed entertainment merchandise plans to fold hollywood.com into its Web site to form an “entertainment, movie and popular culture superstore.” BigE.com launched in November.

The combined venture will add online movie ticketing and other e-commerce products, including videos and DVDs, to the apparel, posters, and collectibles Big E already sells, according to Mitchell Rubenstein, chairman and CEO of Big E.

Los Angeles-based Hollywood Online currently owns and operates hollywood.com, a leading Internet site for movie and celebrity-related multimedia, news, reviews and movie show times representing 75% of theater screens nationwide.

New site is hollywood.com

According to Big E, the combined Internet properties will operate under the hollywood.com names and Web address upon completion of the purchase, expected to occur within the next 90 days. The two companies inked a definitive agreement Monday.

The combined Web site will be promoted under an exclusive marketing agreement with the National Assn. of Theater Owners (NATO).

Under the deal, Big E will provide $31 million in newly issued stock to Times Mirror. These shares will consist of common stock and, under certain circumstances, preferred stock, about 20% of Big E common shares.

Additionally, one Times Mirror representative will join Big E’s board of directors, bringing the board’s total membership to nine.

Also part of the deal, the combined online venture will become the “exclusive studio store” for latimes.com, the Los Angeles Times Web site. The site already serves as the exclusive e-commerce entertainment store for USA Today.

In the month of December, hollywood.com attracted 1.2 million visitors. About 20% of the Web site’s users are from outside the U.S., the company said.

Shares of Big E rose $.06 to close at $14.50.

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