Kinowelt scoops Kirch movies, skeins

Deal speeds Koelmel bros back to Teuton high table

BERLIN — German distrib Kinowelt has landed DVD and theatrical rights for the next seven years to 5,500 films and series from bankrupt Kirch Media. Titles include “La Strada,” “Fight Club” and “Bonanza.”

Deal boosts Kinowelt’s catalog to 8,500 titles, making it one of the country’s biggest home entertainment players with one of the largest film libraries in Europe.

Kinowelt and Kirch Media did not reveal financial details of the DVD rights sale, which includes movies like “Entrapment,” popular German titles such as “Sissi” and “Die feuerzangenbowle” and classic series like “Lassie.” Rights to the package expire in 2012.

Sales at Leipzig-based Kinowelt grew E8 million ($10.5 million) to $62 million last year. This year it’s expecting revenue to reach $73.5 million. Company has declined to publish profit figures.

“With these acquisitions, Kinowelt has again joined the leading independents on the German market,” said topper Michael Koelmel.

Kinowelt also celebrated the Oscar wins of Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” which company is releasing pic theatrically March 24. Kinowelt picked up bigscreen and DVD rights to the boxing drama for Germany and Austria.

The lion’s share of Kinowelt’s rev comes from home entertainment, but company has recently boosted its theatrical slate. Last month it released James Wan’s “Saw.”

Michael Koelmel and brother Rainer founded Kinowelt in 1984 and floated it on Germany’s Neuer Markt in 1998.

The cash infusion led to quick expansion, but high-priced shopping sprees sank the company three years later.

The Koelmels bought back the bankrupt company’s assets in 2003 and founded a new Kinowelt, leaving the original holding listed on the stock market. Michael Koelmel wants to merge the now privately held Kinowelt with the publicly listed, but operationally empty, Kinowelt shell.

Kirch Media is close to finalizing the sale of German-lingo free and pay TV rights to thousands of titles.

Munich-based producer-distributor Jan Mojto and pubcaster ARD’s rights division Telepool reportedly are in the final round of bidding for the last chunk of the library.

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