Exec returns with big plans

Patrice Theroux takes helm of company that had fired him

MONTREAL — When the dust finally settled in January on Toronto-based Entertainment One’s purchase of Alliance Films, eOne president of filmed entertainment Patrice Theroux found himself in the unusual position of being head of the company that had fired him.

Theroux worked alongside Alliance chairman Victor Loewy for 18 years, creating a film powerhouse. After Alliance sacked him — the Alliance board said he was shopping the company without its approval — Theroux set up operations at eOne, which recently completed its $225 million deal to buy Alliance from owners Goldman Sachs and Investissement Quebec.

With the acquisition, eOne takes over Alliance’s film distribution operations in Canada, the U.K. and Spain. In Canada, that gives eOne/Alliance a virtual stranglehold on the 20% of Canada’s $1 billion theatrical marketplace not controlled by the Hollywood majors.

Prior to being acquired by eOne, Alliance dominated that share, although eOne had grabbed almost 8% of the overall market, thanks to output deals with U.S. companies like Summit Entertainment. The acquisition places eOne among the film world’s leading independents.

Theroux says eOne will not be fundamentally changing its strategy. “(The deal) allows us to be a more significant partner for everybody,” he says. “We’re a great solution to anyone looking for distribution outside of North America.”

He notes that the bigger distribution platform allows eOne to take rights for more territories, “which makes us a more interesting buyer to sellers and producers.” He adds that the company will continue Alliance’s initiative of co-financing movies, as with “Insidious” and “Women in Black.”

Theroux hopes the company’s added heft will allow eOne to enter projects earlier, and lead to more opportunities in the U.S. The shingle has already been increasing its number of theatrical releases in the U.S., and that will likely continue, with the company targeting 12 to 15 pics annually for distribution.

With Alliance in the fold, eOne inherits output deals for Canada, including agreements with Focus Features, the Weinstein Co. and Relativity Media. Some question whether that could lead to potential conflict given that eOne is now competing with those companies in the U.S. But Theroux says his company’s narrow focus in the States reduces the chance for such conflicts.

“These guys are releasing bigger movies with wider appeal,” he says. “We’re very specialized in our strategy in the U.S.; they’re limited arthouse releases.”

Theroux says he was fortunate to have been at Alliance when it was beginning its ascent in film sales and distribution. “It reminds me a bit of the (Malcolm Gladwell) book ‘Outliers,’ ” he says. “It’s about being at the right place at the right time. I arrived at the very beginning of this … adventure, where they invented a new major player on the scene, and I was in Montreal with Victor, who’s my mentor, and I learned the business with him.” The takeaway: EOne’s takeover of Canada’s Alliance gives exec Patrice Theroux more muscle for North American acquistions and distribution.

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