The purchase untangles the 18-film library from Brooks’ financial problems. In 2010, Brooks filed for bankruptcy protection after settlement talks with AFTRA over unpaid residuals from the 2008 telepic “Sordid Lives” broke down. The library of his Once Upon a Time production shingle, which includes two Willie Nelson films and several Lifetime movies including 2009’s “Prayer for Bobby,” has been stuck in private bankruptcy proceedings ever since.
Funded by all three partners, Content Capital purchased the library for under $1 million. The group is on the lookout for at least one more library asset to purchase within the next two years.
“We’ve been eager to find something like this that could serve as a foundation for something bigger,” Gardner, president of Content Capital Films, told Variety. “We’ve been hearing anecdotally that there are just lots and lots of people who have one movie, two movies, three movies … and they have no way to monetize them.”
Content Capital will focus on exploiting the films on digital platforms like Netflix and Hulu, which have boosted investors’ interest in library content in recent years. Online platforms have helped make up for an eroded home video market, and in some cases have added value to older titles which ran their course on traditional platforms. Miramax is the most high-profile example: In 2010, Disney sold the library for $663 million. Two years, many digital deals and no new content later, the company received a valuation of over $800 million.
Gardner says Content Capital has all the TV and digital rights to five films, while all rights to five others will revert to Content within the next year or two. Content has digital rights to the remaining eight. A few of the films have aired on cable, but virtually none of them have been exploited digitally.
Gardner declined to specify how much revenue the library has been generating. Other pics include Paul Sorvino-toplined “Without Consent” and Jane Seymour starrer “Angel of Death.” Country legend Nelson stars in two films, “Another Pair of Aces” and “Outlaw Justice.”
Given the history with AFTRA, however, one of Content Capital’s biggest initial priorities was reassuring the guilds.
“When we bought the library, I wanted to make sure that we had a fresh start,” Gardner told Variety. “The first thing I said to Joe (Kohanski, a bankruptcy attorney for the guilds) was “We’re going to abide by all of the guild agreements … that was probably the most important meeting that we’ve had since buying the library.”
A former affiliate sales and marketing president for the Fox Networks, Gardner is currently a senior advisor to financial firm Oaktree Capital Management and has served as an advisor to Miramax. He negotiated a Netflix licensing pact for Miramax valued at around $150 million.
Ellis, the owner of Ellis Communications, operated eight Fox-affiliated stations as an owner of Act III broadcasting, which he sold in 1992. He currently owns KAME-TV in Reno, NV and KDOC-TV in Los Angeles.
Wilson, the former president of Tribune Broadcasting, has held top executive roles with the Fox Television Network, CBS and NBC. He now serves as a senior advisor to groups including financial firm Guggenheim Partners.
Robert Cohen of Alternative Bankruptcy Concepts sold the library as assignee for the benefit of the library’s creditors.