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Open Road CEO on Tang Media Sale: ‘The Best Is Yet to Come’

Open Road’s sale to Tang Media Partners will allow the indie studio behind “Spotlight” and “End of Watch” to expand the number of films it releases, CEO Tom Ortenberg told Variety.

The studio is doing an average of eight movies a year, but with the fresh capital it expects to receive from its new owner, Open Road will increase its output to between 10 to 12 films. The company has carved out a niche for itself making mid-budget films, but Ortenberg said he also expects to “be taking a couple of bigger swings,” which presumably will come with a higher price tag.

“Overall, our mission to provide quality midsize theatrical releases remains the same,” Ortenberg said shortly after the deal was formalized.

Open Road had been co-owned by AMC and Regal, the country’s two largest theater chains, but the partners had been looking to sell the company for months. They will remain involved, however, through a long-term marketing partnership. Tang Media Partners is a Chinese company that has been actively buying up television and film companies — last year it purchased IM Global.

As part of the pact, Ortenberg singed a new long-term contract to remain at the company, which he cites as “evidence of my enthusiasm.” He thinks Open Road may use the new capital to add to its staff of 47 and praised Tang Media Partners as a “passionate and enthusiastic partner.”

Despite Ortenberg’s optimism, the Open Road sale comes at a rough time for movie companies, particularly ones that aren’t part of larger media conglomerates. In recent months indie players such as Relativity Media, Alchemy, and Broad Green have closed down or dramatically scaled back their operations, and ticket sales have taken a sharp nosedive. Domestic revenues are down 3% for the year and the summer box office is off more than 10%.

“I think the challenges facing all theatrical motion picture companies is the same as ever,” said Ortenberg. “It’s all about the movies. When we do the right movies and market them and distribute them on a cost-efficient basis, we win.”

He predicts that Open Road may be responsible for some of these winners in the coming months when it releases a sequel to “The Nut Job,” the Johnny Depp thriller “Labyrinth,” and “Marshall,” an upcoming biopic about Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

“The best is yet to come,” said Ortenberg.

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