In a further sign of consolidation in the independent film sector, Universal Pictures International will take over the theatrical marketing and distribution of Entertainment One (eOne) releases in Australia and New Zealand.
The new arrangement takes effect in April and will include Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding (which opens on May 2), Rachel Ward’s Palm Beach, Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth and the Roache-Turner brothers’ Nekrotronic.
There was no immediate indication of layoffs among the eOne team headed by MD Sandie Don. Formerly head of distribution, Don was elevated to MD in November 2017 after Troy Lum stepped up to become executive vice president of international productions.
Lum departed eOne in November to focus on Hopscotch Features, his joint venture with writer John Collee and producer Andrew Mason, and was not replaced.
“Sandie is discussing roles with the team as they prepare for a transition of theatrical marketing and distribution responsibilities to UPI,” an eOne spokesperson told IF. “As those conversations have only just started, we have not made any further announcements.”
Despite the move, eOne still intends to be involved in Australian films. The spokesperson said: “eOne plans to continue to work with Australian filmmakers to source, produce, finance and distribute local films through this new distribution arrangement.”
Its films will continue to be distributed in ancillary markets by Fox Home Entertainment, which is being swallowed up by the Walt Disney Co.
The partnership expands on Universal and eOne’s ongoing collaborations on titles from Amblin Partners and Participant Media, including upcoming eOne releases Green Book and On the Basis of Sex, and their joint global distribution of films produced by Brad Weston’s Makeready.
Ironically, eOne had one of its best years in 2018 led by I Feel Pretty, which grossed $9.3 million, The Post ($7.5 million) The House With a Clock in Its Walls ($7 million), Finding Your Feet ($5.4 million) and Molly’s Game ($3.3 million).
Universal’s releases in Australia/New Zealand rang up more than $176 million in 2018. The firm led by MD Mike Baard has stepped up its local acquisitions including Gregor Jordan’s Dirt Music, John Sheedy’s H is for Happiness and Abe Forsythe’s Little Monsters.
“eOne’s slate of high-quality, commercial films add a valuable new dimension to our business in Australia and New Zealand,” said UPI president, distribution, Duncan Clark. “We have had a successful working relationship with the eOne teams around the world over the years and are excited to work alongside their network of partners, filmmakers and creative talent that continue to bring great independent movies to the marketplace. We are delighted to represent them in this key territory.”
Steve Bertram, eOne’s president, film and television, added: “Having worked with Universal for many years on the numerous films we’ve shared, we are thrilled to partner with Duncan, Mike Baard and the talented executives in Australia and throughout the international team.
“As we continue to focus our efforts on sourcing and producing the highest quality films for distribution around the world, we are confident that this new partnership will enhance the potential of all the films we bring to market in Australia and New Zealand.”
Among the other eOne titles which Universal will distribute are Wild Rose, starring Jessie Buckley and directed by Tom Harper; Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, produced by Guillermo Del Toro and directed by André Øvredal; Annapurna-produced films Booksmart, directed by Olivia Wilde, starring Jason Sudeikis and Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, directed by Richard Linklater, starring Cate Blanchett and Kristen Wiig; and Amblin-produced A Dog’s Journey starring Dennis Quaid.