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Producer Steven Paul Buys Distributor Echo Bridge

Veteran independent producer Steven Paul has acquired distributor Echo Bridge Acquisition Corp. for an undisclosed price, Variety has learned exclusively.

Paul heads a group of investors that made the deal, which includes a library of more than 2,700 films. He will become chairman of Echo Bridge and has tapped Matthew Smith, previously head of Anderson Home Entertainment, as CEO.

Echo Bridge is based in La Crosse, Wis., where it operates from a 125,000 square-foot distribution facility. Echo Bridge has a longtime direct relationship with WalMart, and distributes products to more than 20,000 retail outlets and 40,000 kiosks.

Paul’s SP Releasing has also signed a distribution agreement with Echo Bridge for its slate of films.

“We are very excited to have acquired Echo Bridge as it is the only independent distributor with direct distribution to such an array of outlets,” Paul said. “With Matthew Smith at the helm we believe EBAC will now become the best independent option for independent producers such as myself.”

Smith said, “The current industry dynamics have created a vacuum for independent distribution. We feel this platform will fill that void and provide independent content owners a robust option to maximize the exploitation of their content in the U.S. through major retailers supporting theatrical, physical home entertainment, digital, SVOD and AVOD channels.”

Trevor Drinkwater, head of Arc Entertainment and founder of the Bentonville Film Festival, helped negotiate the transaction. He will act as a consultant to Echo Bridge with his Arch Entertainment distributing through Echo Bridge.

SP Releasing plans to distribute more than 90 films over the next three years. Paul is one of the producers on the upcoming “Ghost in the Shell” with Scarlett Johansson and has credits on both “Ghost Rider” movies. He’s struck multiple film production arrangements in the U.S., China, and Thailand.

Paul also owns the former Samuel Goldwyn building in Century City.

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