Freestyle Releasing, the company co-founded by Mark Borde and the late Susan Jackson, has just been bought by Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios. The acquisition is significant in that Freestyle has an output deal with Netflix and is the distributor behind such faith-based fare as God’s Not Dead and Woodlawn. The company said will distribute about 15 to 20 films per year. Borde and his staff of about 25 are staying on board, which makes sense because the label is Borde. The deal was said to be sealed for high-eight figures.
“We could not be more excited to have Byron Allen add Freestyle Releasing to his ever-growing media empire,” Borde said in a statement. “We’ve had numerous offers over the years, but now we’ve finally found the perfect buyer who shares our vision for distribution expansion on all platforms: theatrical motion pictures, broadcast syndication, cable television, VOD and digital content. Our future just got much brighter.”
Freestyle released God’s Not Dead last year to great success; the film starring Kevin Sorbo came out of nowhere to gross $60.7M domestically. Another faith-based pic, Woodlawn, was released last week and became one of only three the films to earn an A+ CinemaScore rating in the past two years (the others were American Sniper and Selma). The Christian-themed inspirational drama has grabbed $5M to date. It will be playing again in 1,475 theaters this weekend.
Allen’s Entertainment Studios produces, distributes and sells advertising for 38 television programs worldwide, making it one of the largest independent producers/distributors of first-run syndicated television programming for broadcast television stations. Freestyle Releasing distributes lower-budgeted indie fare but also has under its umbrella Freestyle Digital Media and represents indie film and TV producers through its producers representation division, Turtle’s Crossing.
“This is an historic moment in the film industry,” said Quincy Jones. “One of the best ways to address diversity in our industry is through finance and distribution, and Byron Allen has now taken that first major step, which is long overdue. I am very proud of Byron, and I hope he adopts me.”
Allen started his production company in 1993 and has, over the years, been steadily building an enterprise to rival Tyler Perry. The comedian who launched his TV career as a host of Real People is estimated to have a net worth of about $300M. Nice job, Mr. Allen.