Decade in Review: Distributor of the Decade

Distributor of the decade Victor Loewy sees survival in staying one step ahead.
Victor Loewy

For more than 40 years Victor Loewy, the chairman and CEO of Alliance Films, has made it his business to never relax.

When asked how he’s managed to survive, and thrive, for so long, Loewy’s response is a modest one: “I work hard. I am always trying to keep ahead, to keep on top of what’s going on.”

Attempting to figure out how and where audiences will watch movies in the coming decades is not a task for the faint-hearted.

“The business is changing dramatically,” he observes. “[But] I believe people will always go to the cinema. Teenagers will never stop going to movies. But I do believe that more and more families will be watching more movies from home.”

Multi-platform distribution and expanding to territories outside North America are key to keeping revenues steady in these uncertain times, says the Romania-born CEO. “We are bullish about our expansion.”

When iTunes started to release films online, Alliance immediately signed a distribution deal with them. And at press time, the company was in talks with Cineplex to work out how to eventually share the income pie for at-home distribution of newly released movies.

“We will likely reach a deal over the next six months,” says Loewy.

“Maple and eOne have expanded a great deal but we have maintained our box-office share,” says Loewy. “We have continued to grow in the UK. And we are hoping to expand to other countries.”

While many pundits predicted the fall of Alliance Films when parent company Alliance Atlantis disappeared in 2007, the company instead re-launched and re-branded with a shot in the arm from the Quebec provincial government, which purchased a $100-million stake in the Canadian film distributor (the Société générale de financement du Québec owns 51 percent of the voting shares of the company and 38.5 percent of the equity).

Loewy, who formed Vivafilm in Montreal with Robert Lantos in 1971 relishes his now frequent visits to la belle province.

“For me it’s coming home. It’s as if I never left. There is a real production business here. In Toronto people are more oriented towards servicing American movies. Here, it’s easy to gather many industry players around a table to talk about film.”

It’s likely easy for Loewy to find dinner companions here because he spent the early part of his career breaking into Quebec indie film distribution by pursing the rights to European art house films.

In time, the non-French art house titles began to out-gross French cinema in Quebec, making Loewy a mainstream Quebecois player on par with veterans who at the time controlled Quebec distribution such as Andre Link, John Dunning and Rene Malo.

Loewy then began to hunt around for American films to distribute, and by 1985 he co-founded Alliance Communications.

Under Loewy, Alliance became Canada’s top indie distributor of Canadian and foreign films, especially from suppliers New Line, Focus and Miramax.

Loewy continued as CEO following the 1998 merger of Alliance with Atlantis Communications. In 2006 there was a major boardroom shuffle and Loewy quit after colleagues Patrice Théroux and Patrick Laberge were fired by the board, but the separation was short-lived. In 2007, Goldman Sachs & Co. acquires MPD and renamed it Alliance Films, with Loewy at the helm as chairman.

Today Loewy runs a multinational, with subsidiaries in Britain and Spain, distributing films in all media from Canadian and US suppliers, including The Weinstein Company, Overture Films, Relativity Media, CBS Films, The Film Department and Focus.