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Weak Q1 pix sink Alliance at box office

Distrib reports net loss of $3.7 million

MONTREAL — Alliance Atlantis’ movie distribution operations slumped bigtime in the first quarter due to lackluster box office for its releases in Canada, the U.K. and Spain.

The dip in profit at the Toronto-based Movie Distribution Income Fund is particularly worrisome given that summer is not its hottest period: It relies on product from U.S. specialty companies and competes with the studios’ summer blockbusters.

Distrib reported a net loss for the first quarter ended March 31 of $3.7 million, down considerably from net earnings of $10.6 million a year earlier.

“We just didn’t have a good release slate,” said Movie Distribution Income Fund chief financial officer Lloyd Wiggins. “But we’re very confident on a go-forward basis.”

Revenue for Alliance Atlantis’ movie distribution unit was $85 million, up 7% from $80 million in the same quarter last year.

‘Cursed’ revs

Canuck distribution revenue was down largely due to underperforming pics “Cursed” and “Son of the Mask,” offset by strong DVD sales for “The Notebook,” “Shall We Dance” and “Finding Neverland.”

In the U.K., Alliance Atlantis-owned Momentum Pictures reported revenue increased 13% in part thanks to the theatrical release of “Racing Stripes” and DVD sales of “CSI: Miami.” However, it posted an operating loss of $80,000, down from a profit of $3 million a year earlier.

The poor U.K. results partly reflect costs of the launch of “Downfall” on April 1. The strong British B.O. for the German pic will be reflected in second-quarter results.

Revs at Alliance Atlantis’ Spanish distributor Aurum were $7 million, a reflection of a lack of major theatrical releases.

The other dark cloud hovering over Alliance Atlantis is the ongoing change at Miramax, one of its key suppliers in Canada.

Alliance is already receiving fewer Miramax pics, and there is no guarantee that it will nab the output deal for Canada from the Weinstein brothers’ new company.

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