Co. has distributed such pics as 'Mexican,' Christ'

Exclusive Media Group has acquired Newmarket Films and will add the distribution/production company and its 250-title library to EMG-owned companies Spitfire Pictures, Hammer and Exclusive Film Distribution.

Price was not disclosed by Newmarket or EMG, which is financed by Netherlands-based Cyrte Investments, but the principals said it was a “substantial” purchase.

Newmarket co-founder Chris Ball will become a co-chairman alongside EMG co-chairmen Nigel Sinclair and Guy East; Sinclair will be group CEO. Ball will also become president of EMG USA and play an important role in the company’s domestic operations and in the worldwide sales and distribution strategy with East, who is chairman of Exclusive Film Distribution.

Formed in 1994 by Ball and William Tyrer, Newmarket has a track record for distributing such prestige pics as “The Passion of the Christ,” “Monster,” “Whale Rider” and “Donnie Darko.” Its library includes “Memento,” “The Prestige,” “The Mexican” and “Cruel Intentions.”

In an interview, Sinclair and Ball said that the intention is to give Newmarket a larger base of capital that will allow it to step up its volume of prestige film distribution to four to six titles per year.

Newmarket and EMG came away from the Toronto Film Festival with the acquisition of the Jon Amiel-directed “Creation,” which stars Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly in a drama about Charles Darwin’s struggle to balance his love for a deeply religious wife with his growing belief in evolution. The picture will be platformed for Oscar consideration before Newmarket distributes it in January.

Newmarket will remain in its prestige picture wheelhouse and won’t necessarily become the de facto distributor of EMG-generated films. EMG will continue its own relationship with distributors like Overture Films, which will distribute the Hammer Films pic “Let Me In,” the Matt Reeves-directed remake of “Let the Right One In” that stars Richard Jenkins. Hammer is also in post-production on the Hilary Swank-Jeffrey Dean Morgan starrer “The Resident,” and Spitfire Pictures has completed production on the Peter Weir-directed “The Way Back,” which stars Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan and Colin Farrell.

Ball brings his executive team of Chris Calhoon, Rene Cogan, John Crye and Robert Fyvolent with him to EMG, and Tyrer will have an informal relationship with the team.

Sinclair and Ball have worked together for 21 years, since Sinclair was a film finance lawyer and Ball a banker. Ball has worked with East just as long. Sinclair said that the Newmarket library titles give EMG added strength, when added to the 300 or so films that EMG controls from the Hammer and Spitfire libraries.

With Newmarket, they expect to exploit a niche created by the attrition of distributors in the prestige film space.

“There is a tremendous gap in the marketplace for domestic distribution, and combining Newmarket with a well funded partner in EMG, we believe we can take advantage of an opportunity,” Ball said. “We’ve got a strong brand and a good name with exhibitors, producers and agents. We believe there is a huge audience for the kind of director-driven, intelligent films we are known for, and there are not that many companies providing product for that audience.”

Sinclair said the acquisition strategically gives EMG content for aggressive long-term growth in “multi-platform horizontal entertainment.”

That includes internet, VOD and digital applications for library titles and new productions, which EMG feels will become lucrative in the next few years. They’ve so far had promising results used the legendary Hammer horror brand to create programming on MySpace TV in the U.K.

“The world is changing in front of our eyes,” Sinclair said. “Companies like ours were driven by theatrical releases, which allowed us to exploit after-market opportunities. We believe that within ten years, there will be converging windows, and that properties will be launched horizontally. You might launch programs on internet platforms that eventually lead to theatrical platforms. We want to be on the front foot of that as it goes forward.”

EMG will continue to look for strategic acquisitions to help that effort, the principals said.

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