First Look Studios is in exclusive talks to acquire Avi Lerner’s Nu Image/Millennium Films in a move to bulk up its library and bolster its production capability.
First Look and Millennium have agreed in principle to the deal, and are now in a period of due diligence, meaning neither side can discuss any terms.
Asking price is reported to be in the $250 million-$350 million range, with the majority going for the library. The idea is for Millennium to be absorbed into First Look, with Lerner continuing to run the Millennium label and produce movies.
First Look has a relatively small slate of films it produces. Current productions include “Phantom Biker” and Sundance entries “Smiley Face” and “An American Crime.” Acquiring Millennium would give First Look immediate access to more inhouse productions.
Nu Image/Millennium Films produces an average of 15 films a year. In regard to the library, First Look would get as many as 300 Nu Image/Millennium library titles.
Millennium has been exposing itself to more risk of late by making costlier movies. Several of those titles, however, have not reaped rewards at the box office, including “The Black Dahlia,” “The Wicker Man” and “Home of the Brave.” Upcoming titles include “Rambo IV” and Michael Douglas starrer “King of California.”
If absorbed by First Look, Millennium would have a direct route to distribution, as well as being provided marketing coin.
Lerner is considered a shrewd businessman who has relied heavily on foreign sales to finance Nu Image/Millennium films. (Nu Image handles foreign operations and sales.) The company hastapped into overseas financing sources, among them German private investment fund Equity Pictures.
Acquiring Millennium would round out Henry Winterstern’s aggressive expansion of First Look, which he rechristened First Look Studios in 2005 after merging the longstanding foreign sales entity with Capital Entertainment and adding distribution. Last year, he hired former Paramount Classics co-prexy Ruth Vitale to run First Look Pictures and former Miramax international sales vet Stuart Ford to launch a foreign sales arm.
Lerner told Daily Variety there is no deal yet in place.
“It’s too early,” Lerner said. “When someone comes with the right price, we will sell our library. There is no deal until we sign a deal.”
First Look declined comment.
Born and raised in Israel, Lerner got into the film biz managing that country’s first drive-in cinema. He then bought a chain of theaters and built up a busy video business.
Lerner moved to Los Angeles in 1992 and formed home entertainment company Nu Image with Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short and Danny Lerner. In 1995, Nu Image formed Millennium Films.
First Look has 135 employees; Millennium, around 60.