Weinsteins pin a wrestling pact

TWC wrestles a vid distrib deal

The Weinstein Co. and Vince McMahon are putting on a smackdown.

Companies have entered a wide-ranging pact that will have ramifications in areas such as distribution, production and talent.

Genius Products, which is majority-owned by TWC, has landed a deal to distribute all World Wrestling Entertainment homevideo.

The Weinsteins and the WWE will also tag-team on direct-to-video pics, with the two co-producing and co-financing an unspecified slate of movies.

And WWE wrestlers could find themselves in Dimension films.

Sony BMG had previously distributed WWE homevid titles. WWE exec veep for consumer products Donna Goldsmith said the company was happy with the partnership, but when the deal expired, it decided to make the jump to Genius because it was taken by the latter’s staff and strategy.

Genius will release at least 25 new WWE titles per year, roughly the same distribbed via Sony BMG, and also make available all releases from the WWE catalog.

Among the first new releases are “Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story,” about the notorious ’80s-era wrestler, and “The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA,” about the defunct American Wrestling Assn. Both are set for next month, when the new deal kicks in.

A music pact between Sony BMG and the WWE has also expired; the latter says it has yet to decide whether to reup or look elsewhere.

For TWC, deal continues to help the company fill its library pipeline. Libraries are increasingly regarded as a critical portion of the revenue pie for studios and media companies, and the Weinstein Co. has aggressively moved to build its library by taking a 70% stake in Genius.

Homevidder has ramped up its partner list and now serves as distributor of properties such as NBC News, TV Guide, Tartan USA and ESPN. Genius’ Trevor Drinkwater says it hopes to continue signing partners in areas like sports and family entertainment. Shipments have increased exponentially since TWC took its 70% stake in the company less than a year ago.

Deal also opens up possibility for theatrical releases of WWE pics. Goldsmith said it’s “definitely something we’re talking about,” and Bob Weinstein told Daily Variety that he thinks it’s a very distinct possibility.

Weinstein also said that the company would look to use WWE talent in its nonwrestling movies, such as action pics released under its Dimension label. “Some of these guys are natural-born talents,” he said.

Companies also noted a cultural compatibility between the two entities. “Harvey and I very much relate to Vince McMahon’s entrepreneurial style and entertainment philosophy,” Weinstein said.

WWE’s “WrestleMania” helped usher in the era of pay-per-view and continues to be a big profit-driver. Meanwhile, TV properties like “RAW” and “Smackdown,” the USA and CW skeins, both earn very solid ratings, with “RAW” catapulting USA into many weekly ratings wins on cable.

Revenues at the WWE are also augmented by its wide range of multimedia enterprises, including wireless, books and feature films. McMahon exec produces, and WWE Filmds produces, many pics that feature WWE personalities, including 2006 releases like Lionsgate’s “See No Evil,” starring Kane, and Fox’s John Cena starrer “The Marine,” now in theaters.

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