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MGM, Annapurna Form U.S. Distribution Partnership

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures have formed a new joint venture for theatrical distribution in the U.S.

The companies said the partnership, announced Tuesday, marks MGM’s return to domestic distribution and a continued expansion of Annapurna, which launched a marketing and distribution operation earlier this year. The announcement was made by Gary Barber, MGM’s chairman and chief executive officer, and Megan Ellison, founder and CEO of Annapurna.

Annapurna and MGM will share funding for the joint venture’s operations while each studio will retain creative control over their individual projects. The marketing and distribution team established at Annapurna will help in the campaigns for all MGM titles, which will be distributed under the MGM banner. Annapurna’s produced films will continue to be distributed under Annapurna’s already established label.

Through this joint venture, MGM expects to release approximately six to eight films per year beginning with Eli Roth’s re-imagining of the revenge thriller “Death Wish,” starring Bruce Willis with a March 2 release. MGM will then release its reboot of romantic comedy “Valley Girl,”  starring Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse, and Mae Whitman, on June 28; and pro wrestling comedy-drama “Fighting With My Family,” starring Florence Pugh, Vince Vaughn, and Dwayne Johnson, on Sept. 14.

MGM said it plans to release “Creed 2,” starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan, in partnership with Warner Bros. on Nov. 21, 2018.

MGM’s 2018 film slate also has titles that will be released through its existing studio partners, including “Tomb Raider,” starring Alicia Vikander, with Warner Bros. on March 16; the animated “Sherlock Gnomes,” voiced by Johnny Depp, James McAvoy, and Emily Blunt, with Paramount on March 23; and “Overboard,” starring Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris, with Pantelion Films on April 20.

Tuesday’s announcement did not address how MGM and producer Eon Productions will handle the next James Bond movie, saying only that those plans would be announced “at a later date.”

The companies announced in July that the untitled 25th Bond film would be released on Nov. 8, 2019; Daniel Craig announced a month later that he’d return to play the superspy. Eon Productions’ deal with Sony ran out after 2015’s “Spectre.”

As part of the agreement, MGM and Annapurna also announced that they have formed a Mirror releasing entity to pursue theatrical releasing opportunities for third-party films.

Barber said, “We could not be more excited about the start of our new partnership and look forward to working with Megan and the incredibly strong management team that she has built. MGM has successfully grown its operations over the last seven years, but we have been reliant upon our co-production partners to theatrically release our films. The time has come for MGM to regain control of its own destiny and return to U.S. theatrical distribution.”

“This efficient distribution model enables us to retain more distribution rights to our feature film releases and create additional revenue opportunities for MGM,” Barber added.

Ellison, who launched Annapurna in 2011, said, “We are thrilled to expand our relationship with Gary and the entire MGM team. MGM’s distinguished legacy and library of films has made them a pillar in the industry and I couldn’t be more proud and confident in our team’s ability to collaborate on the distribution of their upcoming slate.”

Annapurna launched its distribution operation in August with “Detroit.” It said it expects to release a slate of approximately four to six films per year including Richard Linklater’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”; Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” adapted from the James Baldwin novel; “The Sisters Brothers,” based on Patrick deWitt’s  novel; Jacques Audiard’s follow-up to “Dheepan”; and Adam McKay’s untitled Dick Cheney project.

The partnership does not affect Orion Pictures, MGM’s recently relaunched standalone U.S. theatrical marketing and distribution company. Orion’s first film under the new label is romance “Every Day,” starring Angourie Rice, Maria Bello, and Debby Ryan, on April 27.

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