TORONTO — In a wide-ranging interview Canadian film mogul, Robert Lantos talked about his new venture Maximum Films as well as the fate of Alliance Atlantis, part of which he founded.
Lantos, at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival on Friday to promote opening night film Jeremy Podeswa’s “Fugitive Pieces” and David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises,” spoke publicly about the deal in which Alliance Atlantis Communications was sold to CanWest Global Communications and Goldman Sachs for $2.3 billion and broken up, including its chances of being accepted by Canuck regulators.
Lantos co-founded Alliance Entertainment, which, in 1998 was sold to then-rival Atlantis Communications.
The AAC sale, announced in January, closed in mid-August, with CanWest Global taking the broadcasting division, Goldman Sachs taking the 50% stake in the “CSI” franchise, and Goldman Sachs and Canadian partner EdgeStone Capital taking the distribution division, called Motion Picture Distribution.
The broadcast portion of the deal is being held in trust until the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission issues its stamp of approval, and the MPD portion has yet to receive the thumbs up from Heritage Canada.
No Canadian distributor can be controlled by a foreign entity and Goldman Sachs and EdgeStone Capital are trying to persuade Heritage Canada that control is held by EdgeStone, even though the majority of the capital for the deal came from Goldman Sachs.
However, Lantos is miffed that MPD’s massive library, which includes hundreds of hours of Canuck shows subsidized by millions of dollars of government coin, is ending up with what is, essentially, an American company.
He calls it “by far” the most valuable asset in the AAC crown because Canadian content quotas mean that local TV execs have to keep dipping into the well to fill their skeds. Now that regulation will benefit coffers largely outside of Canada.
“If you turn on the TV, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, somewhere on the dial there’s an old TV series that I produced or an old movie I produced, he said. “Without the regulation, that library would be basically worthless.
“It gives my dear friend (MPD distrib topper) Victor Loewy a great deal of leverage in negotiating his contract,” Lantos added. “Because that’s the best shot they have of convincing Heritage that someone who’s Canadian has some say about what goes on at the company.”
Lantos also talked about his plans for his distribution shingle Maximum Films.
“As a producer I can only impact the films that I make, and I make very few films,” he said, “but as a distributor, I can impact on a much wider scale which films get made. I can help make sure the ones that I believe have a place in a marketplace get made. I believe there’s a phenomenal amount of talent in Canada, and financial resources. They could be put to better use.”
Lantos’ business plan is an ambitious one that includes mainstream American movies for wide release, English and French Canadian fare, as well as independent American and European films. “Canada is a very small market, so the only way to build a successful distribution company is to have a large and varied supply of product,” he said.
Maximum already has a lineup of between 25 and 35 films, as well as recently announced output deals with Magnolia and HDNet, (in partnership with Patrice Theroux of Entertainment One) and Fortissimo.
He said he’s confident that there is room in the Canadian market for himself and competitors Theroux and Loewy, both of whom he counts as friends. “There’s a cornucopia of films being made today, it’s like a tsunami of production around the world, and especially in the U.S.”