Artisan to distrib Republic

Catalog features Stewart, Wayne pix

Artisan Entertainment is nearing a deal to handle homevideo and digital videodisc distribution of the 3,000-title library of Republic Entertainment, one of the largest catalogs still available outside the studio system.

While exact details of the agreement are still being worked out, Artisan is negotiating to distribute Republic’s film titles for an initial term of between five and 10 years.

Although a vast number of its titles are vidpics or genre fare, Republic boasts a number of classics, including “It’s a Wonderful Life,” with James Stewart, “High Noon,” with Gary Cooper, and “The Quiet Man,” starring John Wayne.

Many of its other pics are Westerns or crime thrillers from the studio’s heyday in the 1940s and the 1950s such as “Johnny Guitar,” starring Joan Crawford, and “City That Never Sleeps,” with Gig Young.

It was unclear Tuesday whether Artisan would be taking on the entire Republic library or a portion of it, or whether Artisan would have worldwide home entertainment rights to the pics or just domestic rights.

In the past, Republic, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Spelling Entertainment Group, has handled its own foreign sales under the Republic Pictures banner.

Spelling and Republic declined to comment. Artisan execs could not be reached.

Production pullout

Republic pulled out of film production two years ago. One of its last theatrical pics was the 1995 drama “Once Upon a Time … When We Were Colored,” which Legacy Releasing released in the U.S.

Most of its other productions in the past 10 years have been genre thrillers and actioners, such as the “Scanners” franchise and “Stephen King’s Thinner.”

Republic also has handled video distribution of certain Spelling Films/Paramount productions, including “Night Falls on Manhattan” and “Bound.” But as Par now distributes many of these pics itself, they may not form part of the Artisan deal.

Republic has not been active in video-rental since last March, when it abandoned that side of the business in order to focus on sell-through.

But many, if not most, of the company’s films have yet to be made available on DVD.

Snagging the Republic library fits with Artisan prexy Amir Malin’s declared goal of growing Artisan’s own vaults, which already contain 2,600 titles.

Distrib’n deals

Artisan has struck a video distrib deal with Hallmark Entertainment, for Hallmark, Crayola and Cabin Fever product. For a fee, Artisan also handles U.S. distribution, in all media, of pics produced by New York indie the Shooting Gallery.

Artisan, which is backed by a financial consortium headed by Bain Capital, is headed by a management team comprising Malin, prexy Bill Block and CEO Mark Curcio.

Spelling Entertainment Group, which is 80% owned by Viacom Entertainment Group, bought Republic for $93 million in 1994. SEG shuttered its Spelling Films division earlier this year, in order to focus purely on TV.

(Martin Peers in New York contributed to this story.)