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Overview: Any conversation about MGM’s 2004 begins and ends with the studio’s deal to be acquired by Sony and a consortium of investors for nearly $5 billion. “Obviously, this was a different type of year for us because of the transaction,” says MGM vice chairman Chris McGurk. “But given all that, we feel good about the year. We had some winners and losers.” At the box office, most releases hit middle-of-the-road numbers. Losses were offset by DVD sales and, in some cases, low budgets. The studio’s United Artists’ division also underwent a significant transition when president Bingham Ray stepped down early in the year. He was replaced by Danny Rosett.

Winners and losers: “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” the Ice Cube starrer that he also exec produced, grossed $65 million was the studio’s top performer. The remake of “Walking Tall” also fared well, minting $46 million. Misses included “Soul Plane” and “Sleepover.”

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Award prospects: UA’s “Hotel Rwanda,” starring Don Cheadle, is the studio’s main awards contender. A surprise at the Toronto film fest, it has continued to build on strong word of mouth and could leave its mark on the awards circuit.

The year ahead: The coming year looks more promising for the Lion, and not just because the acquisition figures to be completed by mid-2005. Studio offers a lineup of heavyweights, including “Be Cool” (the sequel to “Get Shorty”) and “Beauty Shop” (a “Barbershop” spinoff starring Queen Latifah) as well as the “The Amityville Horror” remake directed by Michael Bay. MGM franchise pics are also gearing up. “The Pink Panther,” starring Steve Martin, bows in the fall, and the next James Bond pic is about to land a director and cast.