Gary Barber, the executive credited with bringing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer back from bankruptcy, has found his next act. The former studio chief is partnering with Lantern Entertainment co-presidents Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic to relaunch Spyglass Media Group as a content company. Italian distributor Eagle Pictures and exhibition giant Cineworld Group are strategic investors in the new venture.
The company is commencing as Disney, WarnerMedia, and Comcast are preparing to launch streaming services, and as Apple is moving more aggressively into the content space. At the same time, Netflix and Amazon have been handing out generous paydays to companies as they look to bolster their arsenal of films and shows.
“We want to take advantage of what’s going on in the marketplace,” Barber told Variety in an interview. “There’s been a proliferation of streaming platforms. They have a voracious appetite for content and they can’t make it all by themselves.”
The original Spyglass was co-founded by Barber and Roger Birnbaum in 1998. It produced such films as “The Insider,” “Get Him to the Greek,” and “Star Trek” before the founders left in 2010 to oversee MGM. At MGM, Barber helped the company emerge from Chapter 11 and burnished its image by producing “The Hobbit” and “Skyfall,” the most commercially successful film in the James Bond series. Despite those box office successes, Barber was ousted from the company in March of 2018. His firing was the result of a fundamental disagreement about the direction of the company. Barber thought MGM should explore a sale, a decision that put him into conflict with his senior management team and with Anchorage Capital Group, the company’s largest stake holder. After parting ways, Barber received a $260 million payout.
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Lantern made headlines last summer after it closed its $289 million acquisition of the Weinstein Co., the independent film giant that nearly became insolvent in the wake of founder Harvey Weinstein’s sex assault scandal. By teaming with Barber, Lantner hopes to leverage the Weinstein Co.’s library of 250 films — remaking old classics, producing new installments in long-running franchises, and dusting off un-produced scripts.
“There are a lot of sequel-izable assets,” said Barber.
Though Barber spoke optimistically about the streaming revolution taking place and Spyglass’s opportunities to profit from the new entertainment order, the company isn’t wedded to any one platform. It will develop, finance and produce content for theatrical, network, cable and streaming players. Barber said Spyglass is well capitalized and could be in the market to buy other entertainment companies or libraries.
“We’re going to be very opportunistic,” he said. “We’re well funded and we’re going to be looking at every available asset that we see as being accretive. I’ve had a lot of experience in building companies.”
Spyglass Media Group will be headquartered in Century City, Los Angeles, and will be led by Barber who will serve as its chairman and CEO. Lantern Entertainment will maintain a majority stake in the company with Eagle Pictures and Cineworld Group having an equity stake. Barber also made an investment. Financial terms of the various deals were not disclosed, but the partners said that Spyglass will own and control all of Lantern Entertainment’s current assets. It’s a library that includes “Project Runway,” “The King’s Speech,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Django Unchained,” “Hellraiser,” and “Scream.”
“We bought one heck of a collection,” said Mitchell. “We wanted to put this IP in the right hands.”
Moelis & Co. served as the financial advisor in the deal. Barber was repped by Venable while DLA Piper served as legal advisors for Lantern.