Dis­trib­u­tor of ‘Spot­light’ sold

The CEO of Open Road Films says the deal with Tang Me­dia Part­ners will help it take big­ger bets.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Ryan Faugh­n­der ryan.faugh­n­der @la­times.com

Open Road Films, the dis­trib­u­tor be­hind the best­pic­ture Oscar win­ner “Spot­light,” has been sold to Tang Me­dia Part­ners, a Los An­ge­les-based com­pany with backing from China.

Fi­nan­cial terms were not dis­closed.

Founded in 2011 as a joint ven­ture of theater chains AMC En­ter­tain­ment and Re­gal En­ter­tain­ment, L.A.based Open Road is best known for adult-ori­ented dra­mas such as “The Grey” and “Nightcrawler.” “Spot­light,” about the Bos­ton Globe’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into child abuse in the Catholic Church, won the Oscar for best pic­ture in 2016.

The deal, an­nounced Monday, is a gamble for Tang Me­dia, which has been on the hunt for a U.S.-based film com­pany to ac­cel­er­ate its goal to be­come a global en­ter­tain­ment pro­ducer and dis­trib­u­tor.

Open Road has strug­gled to re­lease com­mer­cial hits in re­cent years, as the box of­fice has be­come in­creas­ingly treach­er­ous for the kind of mid-bud­get movies it dis­trib­utes.

Tang Me­dia, founded in 2015 by former Bear Stearns Asia chief Don­ald Tang, has deep ties to China, where the govern­ment has been more closely scru­ti­niz­ing Hol­ly­wood deals.

The com­pany’s back­ers in­clude Chi­nese so­cial me­dia gi­ant Ten­cent Hold­ings, which owns the pop­u­lar WeChat mes­sag­ing ser­vice. Last year, Tang bought in­ter­na­tional film sales and dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany IM Global.

Open Road Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Tom Orten­berg was up­beat about the deal in an in­ter­view with The Times, say­ing Tang would be an ideal fit for the com­pany to grow its film busi­ness to take more, and big­ger, bets.

He said re­cent hits from other stu­dios, in­clud­ing Sony’s “Baby Driver,” prove that there’s a healthy mar­ket for mid­sized films as the ma­jor stu­dios place their bets on fran­chises.

“I’m bullish on the mid­size space, I hap­pen to think our up­com­ing slate is the best we’ve ever had,” Orten­berg said.

Open Road, which has typ­i­cally re­leased seven to eight movies a year, will in­crease its out­put by two to three movies, he said.

“We’ll prob­a­bly be tak­ing some big­ger swings,” Orten­berg said. “But the mis­sion to pro­vide qual­ity mid­sized theatri­cal mo­tion pic­tures to AMC, Re­gal and all other ex­hibitors re­mains the same.”

Orten­berg has signed a new con­tract to stay with Open Road, which will main­tain a mar­ket­ing re­la­tion­ship with AMC and Re­gal, he said.

The com­pany’s next re­lease is the com­puter-an­i­mated se­quel “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Na­ture.”

Tang has been in on-and­off talks with Open Road for about a year.

The Hol­ly­wood Reporter first re­ported last week that Open Road was near a deal to sell to Tang.

Un­til re­cently, AMC and Re­gal were un­will­ing to sell. How­ever, the theatri­cal ex­hi­bi­tion in­dus­try has come un­der pres­sure from in­vestors over con­cerns about fluc­tu­a­tions in the box of­fice and ef­forts in Hol­ly­wood to shrink the theatri­cal re­lease win­dow.

“Open Road’s ad­di­tion to Tang Me­dia Part­ners is a crit­i­cal step in our strat­egy to en­able our pro­duc­tion team to col­lab­o­rate with the most tal­ented, vi­sion­ary film­mak­ers in bring­ing tar­geted con­tent to au­di­ences ev­ery­where,” Tang said in a state­ment.

Kerry Hayes As­so­ci­ated Press

RACHEL McADAMS, Mark Ruf­falo, cen­ter, and Brian d’Arcy James star in “Spot­light.” The dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany be­hind the Oscar-win­ning drama was sold to Tang Me­dia, an L.A. com­pany with deep ties to China.

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