EXCLUSIVE: WME/IMG has closed a deal to acquire a majority interest in Ken Kao and Alex Walton’s film financing/sales company Bloom. The deal is being announced internally as you read this, but the agency has confirmed it to Deadline. The agency said while it will use its resources to help grow Bloom, that company will continue to operate as a separate entity focused on film financing, production, and international sales. Kao’s other production concerns — Waypoint Entertainment and the banner Kao formed with Ryan Gosling — are not part of the transaction.
For WME, which usually packages and sells projects and then handles or co-reps domestic distribution, the Bloom deal broadens the agency’s global sales platform, one that spans movies, television, sports, music and other areas. Like rivals that include FilmNation and Sierra/Affinity, Bloom makes territorial deals offshore country by country on pictures.
The deal has been in the works for weeks, but closes just as the fall festivals get underway, where Bloom is heavily invested. Among the company’s slate films are the George Clooney-directed Suburbicon starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, which premieres at Venice and Toronto before Paramount releases it; the Scott Cooper-directed Hostiles, which stars Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike and is an acquisitions title premiering at Toronto; and the Kate and Laura Mulleavy-directed Woodshock with Kirsten Dunst, which A24 releases after its Venice premiere. Other upcoming Bloom films include the Bill Holderman-directed Book Club starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Candice Bergen; the Craig S. Zahler-directed Dragged Across Concrete which stars Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn and will be released by Lionsgate; the Jared Leto-starrer The Outsiders; and the Paul Weitz-directed Bel Canto with Moore and Ken Watanabe.
This gives the agency a more direct hand in piecing together funding and distribution for client filmmakers and financiers. It is a direction the major agencies have been going in more and more since studio focus has increasingly turned to tentpoles, leaving a large gulf of films where agencies are largely responsible for the care and feeding of the indie ecosystem. The deal is an outgrowth of a comfortable working relationship, say Kao & Walton, and Graham Taylor and Chris Rice, the WME partners who oversee the agency’s film and TV finance/sales business.
“WME has been a trusted collaborator for me since I began in the business, and I am really delighted that they feel the confidence in what we have achieved at Bloom to now join us in helping build Bloom towards our next phase of evolution through increased content ownership and production,” Kao said in a statement.
“This is the right match for us,” Walton added. “The closer access to talent, material and capital this partnership allows will enable us to take a large step forward as a company and enable us to be a more important supplier to our production and distribution partners domestically and internationally.”
Said Taylor and Rice: “In a short period Bloom has established itself for its ability to launch high quality projects appealing to global audiences. Their knowledge of the international film sales market is the perfect complement to our television sales business. We look forward to bringing their expertise to our clients and partners.”
WME/IMG has by its estimates put 75-100 films and TV shows in production over the past year, with WME Global involved in the packaging, financing and sales of over $200 million in film sales during that time including the Best Picture nominees Arrival, Fences, Hell Or High Water, La La Land and Manchester By The Sea. On the TV side, the agency secured the funding for projects including The Night Manager, Dirk Gently and The Young Pope, and it is co-financing and handling sales on the Phoebe Waller-Bridge series Killing Eve and The First from House Of Cards’ Beau Willimon.