Distribution deal to cover Canada, U.K.

Summit Entertainment has pacted with Toronto-based Entertainment One for distribution of its feature films in Canada and the U.K. through 2010.

Summit, which is revamping itself as a full-service studio with an annual slate of up to a dozen pics, and Entertainment One announced the deal Wednesday.

First pic to be handled under the pact by Entertainment One, which already distributes pics in both Canada and the U.K., will be the Canadian release of horror-thriller “P2” on Nov. 9 through its Seville Pictures subsidiary. Entertainment One’s Contender Entertainment will handle Summit releases in the U.K.

Summit toppers Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger said, “The combination of Entertainment One’s public backing and their commitment to the Canadian and U.K. marketplaces allows Summit the best opportunity to have our films succeed and reach the broadest possible audiences both in the theatrical and home entertainment marketplaces.”

Friedman noted that Summit needed to have a Canadian partner for access to that market — which generates about 10% of the total domestic box office.

Deal also marks a major step up for Entertainment One in both those countries. The company, which used to be primarily a DVD distrib, was bought earlier this year by Marwyn Investment Management, a British hedge fund, and re-launched as a public company in the U.K.

It acquired U.K. distributor Contender Entertainment Group in July and then picked up Canuck niche distributor Seville Pictures. Contender will release the Summit pics in the U.K., while Seville will handle the pics in Canada.

Entertainment One’s president of filmed entertainment, Patrice Theroux, said the company will nab between 10 and 12 pics annually from Summit, and most will be given wide releases in both Canada and the U.K.

In the past, Contender only released around six to eight movies annually, so the addition of between 10 and 12 Summit pics will more than double Contender’s U.K. slate. Seville was releasing around 20 pics nationally in Canada each year, so this will bring the annual Seville slate to between 30 and 32 pics.

Theroux said Entertainment One would like to pick up an additional eight to 12 pics annually for both Seville and Contender. Other Canadian distribs were interested in snaring the Summit output deal, but Theroux pointed to his relationship with Summit going back to his days as a top exec at Motion Picture Distribution, now called Alliance Films.

Deal’s the latest sign that the distribution scene in the Great White North is changing rapidly. Until now, Motion Picture Distribution handily dominated thanks to its output deals with studios like New Line and Miramax, and it was rare for any other Canadian distrib to land major mainstream Hollywood pics like the Summit titles.

Contender will handle the distribution of Summit inhouse productions along with films for which Summit acquires the U.K. rights. But the Summit Intl. sales arm will continue to represent rights in the U.K. to pics that Summit did not produce or finance.

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