Universal To Take Over Entertainment One’s Australia/NZ Theatrical Distribution

Entertainment One is to reduce its Australia/New Zealand theatrical film distribution unit with Universal Pictures International taking over the company’s slate.

The announcement was made by Duncan Clark, UPI’s President, Distribution, and Steve Bertram, eOne’s President, Film and Television. Beginning with films released after April 2019, UPI will handle theatrical marketing and distribution on all films from eOne and its partners.

The upcoming slate includes eOne-produced films Wild Rose, starring Jessie Buckley, and Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark produced by Guillermo Del Toro; Annapurna-produced films including 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. UPI will also handle a series of eOne-acquired films including Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the LightJudy, starring Renée Zellweger and local pictures Top End Wedding and Babyteeth.

The deal builds on Universal and eOne’s ongoing collaborations on titles from Amblin Partners and Participant Media, including current eOne releases Green Book, and On the Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Universal and eOne also jointly handle global distribution of films produced by Brad Weston’s Makeready including upcoming Queen & Slim, starring Daniel Kaluuya.

eOne has around 30 staff in Aus/NZ and while some could potentially segue to other roles many are likely to be out of work. It isn’t clear what will happen to eOne’s local home ent team but the UPI deal only covers theatrical. Entertainment One says it will continue to acquire for the territory — with ANZ still included in global deals — and continue to pick up local product.

The move comes as eOne continues to reorient its business away from in-house single picture acquisitions and towards output deals and production. Former Asia-Pacific chief Troy Lum last year relocated to Hopscotch Features, while it was recently revealed that eOne’s international film president Alex Hamilton is to step down at the end of March 2019. The traditional indie distribution landscape is becoming an increasingly challenged and consolidated arena. As we predicted, the trend looks set to continue in 2019.

Clark said of the deal, “eOne’s slate of high-quality, commercial films add a valuable new dimension to our business in Australia and New Zealand. 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.”

Bertram added, “Universal’s International team has built an industry-leading track record of commercial and critical success globally. 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.”

UPI’s upcoming releases include How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden WorldThe Secret Life of Pets 2Downton Abbey and Cats.

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