Sony Pictures Entertainment Acquires Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired theatrical exhibitor Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

SPE acquired Alamo Drafthouse from owners Altamont Capital Partners, Fortress Investment Group and founder Tim League.

The company will be managed within SPE under a newly established division, Sony Pictures Experiences. 

Alamo Drafthouse’s Michael Kustermann will remain CEO of the pioneering dine-in movie theater chain and head Sony Pictures Experiences, reporting to Ravi Ahuja, president and chief operating officer of SPE. Alamo Drafthouse will continue to operate all 35 of its cinemas across 25 metro areas under the Alamo Drafthouse brand. Alamo Drafthouse-owned Fantastic Fest, the genre film festival, is included in the acquisition and will also continue to be operated by Alamo Drafthouse. The company’s headquarters will remain in Austin.

“We believe strongly in engaging entertainment fans outside the home in fun and distinctive ways as seen most recently with our Wheel of Fortune LIVE! traveling tour, and the opening of Wonderverse in Chicago,” Ahuja said in a statement. “Alamo Drafthouse’s differentiated movie-going experience, admired brand and devoted community fit well with this vision.  Our Crunchyroll business also aligns well with their audience’s interests. We look forward to building upon the innovations that have made Alamo Drafthouse successful and will, of course, continue to welcome content from all studios and distributors.” 

Alamo Drafthouse was founded in 1997 by Tim and Karrie League as a single-screen mom and pop repertory theater in Austin and has grown into a dine-in cinema chain. As North America’s seventh largest theater chain, it releases more movies per year than any other theater chain, welcomes more than 10 million guests annually, and has built a highly engaged core audience of 4 million loyalty members, according to the press release. Last year, the theater chain saw a 30% jump in box office revenue from the previous year, which came in ahead of the industry at large.

“We are beyond thrilled to join forces with Sony Pictures Entertainment to expand our company vision to be the best damn cinema that has ever, or will ever, exist now in ways we could only ever dream of,” Tim League, founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, said in a statement. “They have a deep respect and understanding of cinema’s ability to both drive growth and create lasting cultural impact which aligns perfectly with everything Alamo Drafthouse stands for.”

“Alamo Drafthouse has always held the craft of filmmaking and the theatrical experience in high esteem, which are fundamental shared values between our companies. I’m jazzed that our company is doing this,” Tom Rothman, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, said in a statement.

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“We are excited to make history with Sony Pictures Entertainment and have found the right home and partner for Alamo Drafthouse Cinema,” Michael Kustermann, CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, said in a statement. “We were created by film lovers for film lovers. We know how important this is to Sony, and it serves as further evidence of their commitment to the theatrical experience. Together we will continue to innovate and bring exciting new opportunities for our teammates and moviegoers alike.”

Sony Pictures Chairman: Hollywood Strikes, Global Politics Created ‘Significant Lag’ in Movie, TV Show Production Across All Distribution Channels

The ongoing war in the Ukraine, geopolitics in China, and last summer’s Hollywood labor strikes — not waning consumer interest in theatrical movies — have resulted in a downturn in the production of new movies and TV shows across all distribution channels, including streaming video, Tony Vinciquerra, chairperson of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said during Sony Corp.’s May 30 business segment meeting..

Tony Vinciquerra

Vinciquerra said the combination of the aforementioned events and the pandemic has resulted in few theatrical releases and content choices for moviegoers. He was quick to downplay naysayers who are forecasting the demise of the theatrical business, contending instead that as bigger-budget productions return to the big screen this summer, consumers will follow.

“What really is happening is that people got out of the habit of going to movie theaters,” Vinciquerra said. “In the second half of this year, you are going to see quite a resurgence of people going to theaters. It may not get back to the pre-pandemic level, but we’re pretty optimistic about the next couple of years.”

Vinciquerra reaffirmed Sony’s decision not to launch a branded general entertainment SVOD/AVOD platform in the United States, which would appear to negate any interest the studio might have in the Paramount+ streaming platform should Sony and Apollo Capital acquire Paramount Global.

“We’re not going to get into other businesses. We’re not going to get into general entertainment streaming services. We’re not going to be operating other businesses outside of the strategies we have defined,” he said.

Vinciquerra said U.S. streaming platforms have downsized content spending with higher episodic program cancellations. Industrywide, new TV series orders dropped 22% to 951 shows in 2023 from 1,221 programs in 2022.

Total direct-to-consumer streaming content spending among Disney+, Peacock, Max and Paramount+ dropped almost 30% to $6.8 billion in 2023 compared with $9.8 billion in 2022, according to Sony.

“As the industry’s leading independent content supplier, these changes are, of course, relevant to us at Sony Pictures. Clearly, it is a very challenging time,” Vinciquerra said.

In China, he said the percentage of combined U.S. studio movie revenue has declined from $3.3 billion in 2019 to $1.2 billion in 2023.

“China has started to allow more U.S. films, but the U.S. film share of the China box office has dropped by about 43% in 2019 to 16% in 2023,” Vinciquerra said. “And Russia, once a major marketplace for U.S. studio content, is obviously now non-existent.”

The executive contends that Sony’s decision not to “jump into” the crowded general entertainment streaming space with a branded platform, has enabled the studio to focus on its IP and content licensing rather than distribution.

Sony’s lone branded streaming platform, the anime-based Crunchyroll, has more than 13 million paid subscribers.

Indeed, in addition to exclusive license agreements with Netflix and Disney+ for Sony Pictures theatrical releases, the studio produced Ridley Scott’s Napoleon for Apple TV+ and theatrical. That deal also includes the future theatrical releases Wolfs, starring Brad Pitt, Amy Ryan and George Clooney; Fly Me to the Moon, starring Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum; and the current “Dark Matter” TV show starring Jennifer Conolly and Joel Edgerton.

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Sony Pictures Television, which created “Cobra Kai,” “The Night Agent,” “Who Is Erin Carter” and “The Crown” for Netflix, and “The Last of Us,” for Max, will also produce the first animated TV series, “Spider-Man Noir” featuring the voice of Nicolas Cage, as part of a multi-content deal with Prime Video that also includes “The Boys.”

Sony, Apollo Reportedly Would Sell Off Paramount+, MTV, CBS, Keep Studio Assets

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apollo Global Management would reportedly spin-off the Paramount+ streaming service and CBS should they be successful acquiring Paramount Global for $26 billion. The studio and private equity company would keep Paramount Pictures and Paramount Television, in addition to the studios’ movies and TV show catalogs, according to The New York Times, which cites sources familiar with the situation.

Paramount IP includes “Mission: Impossible,” “Top Gun,” “Transformers,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Star Trek” and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” among others.

Paramount+ ended the most-recent fiscal period with 71 million subscribers, which includes Showtime Anytime subs. The service posted an operating loss to $286 million on revenue of $1.46 billion, down from an operating loss of $511 million on revenue of $965 million in the prior-year period.

Paramount is in the initial stages of exploring the Sony/Apollo offer along with a prior bid by Skydance, the latter offering $3 billion directly to Paramount common shareholders, and a plan to keep Paramount assets intact. That’s a plus for Shari Redstone, the majority shareholder in National Amusements, the corporate entity started by her late father, Sumner Redstone, that owns 80% of Paramount Global controlling stock.

Paramount and Skydance’s exclusive negotiating window expired on May 3.

Sony, unlike its studio competitors, long ago decided not to pursue a direct-to-consumer streaming business, opting instead to exclusively license its movies and TV shows to third-party platforms such as Netflix and Disney+, among others.

Netflix has seen strong viewership for recent Sony movies, while reportedly paying Sony upwards of $1 billion in incremental license revenue for theatrical titles such as Anyone But You, The Equalizer 3, Bullet Train, A Man Called Otto, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, No Hard Feelings and Insidious: The Red Door, among others.

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Sony, Apollo Send Paramount Letter Detailing All-Cash $26 Billion Acquisition Offer

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apollo Global Management have reportedly sent a formal letter to Paramount Global regarding their $26 billion all-cash offer for the media company whose assets include Paramount Pictures, Showtime, CBS and Paramount+ streaming service.

The letter, which was signed by Sony Pictures CEO Tony Vinciquerra and Arron Sobel, partner at Apollo, and sent May 1, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Paramount, Sony Pictures, Apollo have not commented on the letter.

It comes just hours before an exclusive time period expires for Skydance Media to close its previously-announced acquisition offer to Shari Redstone’s National Amusements, which owns 80% of Paramount Global.

That deal got a boost earlier this week when Skydance offered an additional $3 billion in cash to common share holders in Paramount, in an effort to offset the premium value Redstone would receive as premium shareholder.

The months-long negotiation has seen some Paramount board members exit. CEO Bob Bakish was replaced earlier this week by an “Office of the CEO” featuring three senior executives.

Apollo is not shy about paying a premium for assets. In 2016, the private equity group paid $1.6 billion for Redbox, before selling a majority stake in the kiosk DVD rental service for $375 million to Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment in 2022.

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Sony Pictures Entertainment Launching Branded FAST Channels Across Europe

Sony Pictures Entertainment is launching “Sony One,” a portfolio of 54 free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels on LG Channels, Samsung TV Plus and TiVo+ across Europe, beginning in April.

Sony, which has no branded English-language streaming presence in the United States, is set to become one of the largest portfolios of FAST channels in the world. Sony One’s channels will be curated and programmed for local markets in different territories, with content being broadcast primarily in each region’s native language. Territories at launch include the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

“Our entry into the FAST space in Europe reflects our dedication to making premium content accessible to audiences on new and important distribution channels,” Pete Wood, SVP of digital sales and distribution for SPE, said in a statement.

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The channels include:

  • Sony One Comedy TV, with comedy series including “Seinfeld,” “The Nanny” and “The Goldbergs”;
  • Sony One Thriller TV, with series such as “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul” and “Justified” and a focus on crime procedurals and adventures;
  • Sony One Faves, featuring such titles as “Bewitched,” “Community” and “Dawson’s Creek” that evoke nostalgia across generations;
  • Sony One Comedy Hits, featuring such titles as Step Brothers, Jerry Maguire and Easy A;
  • Sony One Action Hits, with such titles as District 9 and the Men in Black and Zombieland franchises;
  • Sony One Shark Tank, featuring episodes of the reality show in which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to moguls;
  • Sony One Dragons’ Den, featuring the juggernaut reality format behind “Shark Tank,” in which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to multimillionaire investors, in the hope of landing investment funds; and
  • Sony One Blacklist, featuring the crime thriller series following a most-wanted fugitive who works with a rookie FBI profiler to take down criminals and terrorists.

 

In addition to Sony One, SPE’s FAST offerings include Sony KAL Hindi, its Hindi destination in the United States and Canada; its portfolio of Spanish-language FAST channels for the U.S. Hispanic audience; and FAST channels in Mexico and Brazil.

Sony Celebrates Columbia 100th With Fan Quiz

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment has launched a genre-based personality quiz, which invites fans to dive into the legacy of some of the studio’s iconic features and series.

Created by Sony Pictures Digital Marketing in collaboration with Watson Design Group, the quiz has participants answer general interest questions, which when answered generate a custom personality type based on genre and a curated list of recommended Sony films and TV series. The quiz is designed to encourage the rediscovery of the studio’s expansive catalog of film and TV titles, according to the studio.

Users can participate in the quiz at www.columbiapictures100.com, join the celebration using #ColumbiaPictures100 and follow along via Sony’s social media channels.

The results are shareable with friends and family across social media.

“Envisioning an experience where fans could not just watch but see themselves within our iconic titles, we designed a dynamic personality quiz that takes them on a captivating journey through our extensive library,” Rose Phillips, SVP, global digital marketing and social, Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a statement. “This is a chance for fans to relive or rediscover our cherished titles, capturing a piece of our studio’s historic legacy to share on social media, and a fun way for fans to express their TV and movie interests while forging a deeper emotional bond during our fan-led celebration of the studio’s 100th anniversary.”

The quiz calls out movie titles such as Ghostbusters, Taxi Driver, Lawrence of Arabia, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Annie, Sleepless in Seattle, Funny Girl, Men in Black, and many more, as well as characters such as Peter Parker (Spider-Man), Walter White (“Breaking Bad”) and Jerry Maguire.

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The quiz ties into the yearlong celebration of Columbia Pictures’ centennial. It follows the recent TikTok “My Life as a Movie” custom filter. Additionally, Columbia Pictures has released a celebratory video highlighting some of the best films and TV series.

The quiz launched on Feb. 8 in the United States, and was released globally with localized versions in an additional eight international markets.

EnTech Fest: Sony’s Keith LeGoy Enjoys Being ‘Switzerland’ of Content

While other studios launched streaming services at the prodding of Wall Street, Sony Pictures Entertainment opted out.

“We had a huge decision to make — to stream or not to stream,” said Keith LeGoy, chairman, worldwide distribution and networks, during a keynote Feb. 7 at EnTech Fest, presented by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group in Los Angeles. “We zigged when everyone else zagged. And for a while, that felt like a pretty uncomfortable place to be.”

The feeling of being what pundits thought was “a dinosaur in a world of mammals” wouldn’t last, he predicted, as “we are going to find ourselves in a unique position, which is to be a sort of Switzerland of content.”

“We had iconic brands that were incredibly valuable to streaming,” he said, and staying out of the fray of branded streaming services was an advantage.

In fact, in part via a deal with Netflix, Sony’s content is thriving in the streaming marketplace.

“Our movies on Netflix do incredibly well for them,” he said. He also called out the Sony series “The Night Agent,” which has been a hit for Netflix.

LeGoy downplayed the disadvantages of not having direct-to-consumer contact. “We actually do get a lot of data from the partners that we work with,” he said.

While Sony doesn’t have a branded studio streamer, it does offer the genre-based anime service Crunchyroll, which has 13 million subscribers. LeGoy praised Crunchyroll’s ability to “superserve” that passionate audience. Moderator Gita Rebbapragada, the service’s chief operating officer, noted it is “trying to be everything to someone as opposed to everything to everyone.”

Meanwhile, Sony hasn’t abandoned the idea of distribution windows as new direct-to-consumer digital avenues opened up.

“We love windows. We think windows are great. We think windows are important,” he said. “We think it’s important for movies to get a strong theatrical release. We think it’s important to have a very strong home entertainment release. And we think both of those things amplify their value when they come to streaming.”

It’s about finding the right home for content and maximizing its audience and revenue, he said.

In addition to Crunchyroll, one of the growth areas for Sony and the industry is premium VOD, according to LeGoy.

“That’s a growing part of the business because it’s a new window,” he said.

One example of the importance of content is the burgeoning market for catalog, such as “Suits,” Rebbapragada noted. Catalog content is big on Crunchyroll, she said.

“I think library content has always played a role in our strategy,” LeGoy said, referencing the success of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” on Netflix.

With all the troubles in the world, there’s “also a bit of nostalgia at the moment,” he noted.

“I think that is driving an enormous desire to discover or rediscover things that were huge hits [in a simpler time],” he said, adding if consumers haven’t seen it it’s “new to them.”

For instance, the 1990s hit “Seinfeld,” which Sony owns, is still relevent, he said. “It is a timeless, classic show,” he said.

“We are optimists,” LeGoy said. “People love content. People love great content [wherever they get it].”

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Sony Pictures’ ‘Americanish’ Available for Digital Rental, Purchase Nov. 14

Americanish, a 2021 American comedy film written by Aizzah Fatima and Iman Zawahry, will be made available for digital rental or purchase by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Nov. 14.

The film was directed by Zawahry and stars Fatima, Salena Qureshi, Shenaz Treasury, Lillete Dubey, Mohammed Amer, Ajay Naidu, Godfrey, Kapil Talwalkar, George Wendt and David Rasche.

Set in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, Americanish follows career-driven sisters Maryam and Sam Khan and their fish-out-of-water cousin Ameera as they navigate romance, culture, career, and family. 

The film premiered at CAAMFest on May 23, 2021. Sony Pictures International Productions acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film last January. 

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Ups Q2 Revenue Nearly 24% to $173 Million

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Nov. 9 reported second-quarter (ended Sept. 30) revenue of $173 million, which was up 23.5% from revenue of $140 million in the prior-year period. Through six months of the fiscal year, revenue from the sales and rental of digital and packaged media sat at $295 million, which was down about 30% from revenue of $422 million in the prior-year period.

Strong sellers in the quarter included the animated Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and initial digital sales from The Equalizer 3, Gran Turismo and Insidious: The Red Door, among other titles.

Theatrical revenue increased 32% to $273 million from $206 million.

Notably, streaming revenue plummeted 70% to $224 million from $320 million due to lower television and digital streaming service licensing revenues compared to Q2 fiscal year 2022, which benefitted from the contribution of several franchise films released theatrically in fiscal year 2021.

Overall pictures operating income remained unchanged at $293 million on revenue of $2.76 billion, compared with operating income of $294 million on revenue of $2.43 billion last year.

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Sony reported it expects sales and operating income for Q3 (ending Dec. 31) to be lower than the August forecast, primarily due to the impact of the just-concluded labor strike in Hollywood, which is expected to lead to lower revenue mainly due to the impact of release date changes for some theatrical releases, restrictions on promotional activities in motion pictures, and delays in series deliveries in television productions, partially offset by the impact of foreign exchange rates.

‘Equalizer 3’ Gets TVOD, Disc Release Dates from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release The Equalizer 3 through digital retailers at regular pricing on Nov. 7, and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc and DVD on Nov. 14.

Also out on those dates is a package with all three films in the franchise. The three-film 4K Ultra HD set exclusively includes Imax-enhanced disc-based presentations of the films, with immersive DTS-X audio for The Equalizer 2 and The Equalizer 3.

The film is already available through premium VOD.

The franchise centers around Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, an ex-assassin with a mysterious past, who returns to action to serve vengeance for the exploited and oppressed. In the third film, McCall ventures to southern Italy, where  he discovers his new friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall knows what he has to do: become his friends’ protector by taking on the mafia. 

As of Nov. 5, The Equalizer 3 has grossed $92.2 million in North American movie theaters and $93.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $185.9 million.