Content is currently in high demand and Magnolia, a leading independent film distributor for two decades, has a substantial library of about 500 titles.
“We went through this process 8-10 years ago and did not sell it then, and we may not sell this time. But the climate this time is strong and we have done extraordinarily well,” president and co-founder Eamonn Bowles tells Deadline — including during the pandemic, with the library throwing off more cash than ever. “We have these ten year old films making more than in their third year,” he said.
A deal would follow hookups between Amazon-MGM (still pending) and the acquisition of Reese Witherspoon’s media company Hello Sunshine by a new Blackstone-backed group led by Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs for a sum said to be about $900 million. That duo is also talking with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook. Lebron James’ company Springhill is said to have been eyeing a partnership with Redbird Capital.
“The climate right now has been large amounts being thrown around. It would be silly not to explore what the market would bear right now,” Bowles said. He declines to speculate on a potential purchase price but confirmed Magnolia had 2020 revenue of about $30 million and could hit $40 million this year.
Indie players are part of a larger reconfiguration of the entertainment landscape. Discovery is in the process of merging with WarnerMedia; Lionsgate’s CEO has said the company is open to deals; AMC Networks, whose CEO and COO recently announced their departures, is generally believed to be heading towards something; and deal rumors continue to dog ViacomCBS and Comcast.
Shark Tank star Cuban and Wagner acquired Magnolia along with arthouse cinema chain Landmark in 2003. They sold Landmark to Cohen Media Group in 2018. In between, Cuban had publicly tested the waters for a sale of Magnolia and Landmark at least once back in 2011 but said then that the price had to be very compelling. Effectively, Magnolia’s owners have been open to offers for a while.
Magnolia, founded in 2001 by Bowles along with Bill Banowsky, is known for docs like Blackfish, I Am Not Your Negro and Capturing the Friedmans. Recent releases include Sundance selection Mayday, Cryptozoo Yakuza Princess, Swan Song and Mandibles. However, its been a challenging time for specialty film and the arthouse market as its key older demos have been slower to return to theaters post-Covid.
Magnet Releasing is the genre arm of Magnolia Pictures, specializing in horror, action, comedy and Asian cinema. Magnolia is currently under Cuban and Wagner’s 2929 Entertainment, as is 2929 Productions, a separate company that develops, finances and producers films.
The banker hire was first reported in NYT’s DealBook column today.
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