Entertainment One buys Seville

The Canadian distribution business is beginning its long-awaited shake-up, as Toronto-based Entertainment One, a new and aggressive entrant, has announced that it has inked a deal to acquire Montreal-based Seville Entertainment for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition of the mid-sized film and TV distributor — parent of Seville Pictures — gives Entertainment One some much-needed infrastructure, Patrice Théroux, president of Entertainment One’s film-distribution division, tells Playback Daily.

‘You have several options when coming into a new territory,’ he says. ‘You can either start from scratch and build that infrastructure, or you can look at acquiring an existing company if you share views and values.’

Previously a below-the-radar DVD, music and video distributor in Canada and the U.S., Entertainment One leapfrogged into film distribution in the U.K. in July when it acquired distributor Contender Entertainment Group of London, and then shortly thereafter in Canada with the appointment of Théroux. He was previously ousted from his post as president and CEO of Motion Picture Distribution.

Seville founders David Reckziegel and John Hamilton will remain copresidents of the Canadian film distribution division of Entertainment One, which for the time being will keep the Seville name. The transaction gives Seville the buying muscle of Entertainment One’s $630 million in annual revenue and, because it has since March been listed on the London Stock Exchange, the ability to raise more cash as needed.

‘Entertainment One’s strategy to build a global distribution business is perfectly in line with our own business plan,’ says Reckziegel. ‘With the weight of Entertainment One behind us, Seville is positioned to become an increasing presence in Canadian distribution, allowing us to exploit rights across Canada more aggressively.’

Seville currently handles about 30 new releases annually and another five or 10 internationally. Upcoming films include the comedy Bluff, which is opening Montreal’s World Film Festival, and Shake Hands with the Devil and Emotional Arithmetic, both of which are bowing at TIFF, where the company looks to make an impression.

‘We are coming into the Toronto film festival with strong financial backing and an eye to buying films with our U.K., Canadian and U.S. companies,’ says Théroux. ‘There is a tremendous organic growth opportunity now in Canada. We will expand Seville’s operations in Toronto, add a minimum of 24 films to Seville’s release slate, and will seek to acquire other filmed entertainment assets in Canada.’

Théroux adds that Entertainment One also wants to continue its international expansion, and has ambitious plans to build on Seville’s television distribution activities — especially involving long-form drama and TV movies, as well as children’s animation, in which subsidy Contender has been successfully operating.

Théroux’s new post puts him into direct competition with Victor Loewy, MPD’s former chair, current consultant, and projected next top man. Loewy is Théroux’s former boss and mentor.

‘I believe Victor will compete fiercely, and I will, too — but with a lot of respect,’ Théroux says. ‘He’s my best friend in the business, and that won’t change.’