EXCLUSIVE: After months of negotiation and speculation over the future of UK distributor Icon Film Distribution, I hear the company and its backer New Sparta has agreed a sale deal to fellow UK outfit Kaleidoscope and its main investor Schneider Media Investments (SMI). The talks with Kaleidoscope have been going on for a couple of months but this was finally pushed through in the last couple of days, I understand.
The future of the revered Icon brand has been the subject of much speculation since the middle of last year when it became clear that investor New Sparta wasn’t keen to continue in the challenging UK distribution arena, after a series of expensive misfires. A number of UK and international buyers kicked the tires on the company once it became clear it sadly couldn’t go on.
The company’s enviable 300+ library ranges from mainstream hits such as Paranormal Activity, 30 Days of Night, Transporter 3, What Women Want and It Follows to critical breakouts such as Tom Ford’s A Single Man, La Vie En Rose, Man On Wire, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and The Babadook. We don’t know at this stage whether Kaleidoscope will maintain the Icon name in some form. The iconic brand has been owned in previous incarnations by Mel Gibson and Len Blavatnik.
As for the well-liked team at Icon, CEO Ian Dawson is understood to be helping out during the transition but there is no word on his future moves. It seems unlikely that he will segue to Kaleidoscope. A handful of staff, including marketing head Chris Warrington are still working out there next steps but company head of distribution Zak Brilliant has moved on. A number of key staff left the company last year.
Relaunched five years ago with backing from Jerome Booth’s private investment firm New Sparta, early signs were promising for Icon. Hits out of the gate included horrors The Babadook and It Follows. But expensive disappointments followed in the shape of Russell Crowe-Ryan Gosling starrer The Nice Guys, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Neon Demon, John Michael McDonagh’s War On Everyone and Tom Hanks comedy-drama A Hologram For The King.
Icon isn’t alone in feeling the heat in the UK, however. The crowded and pricey distribution scene can be a punishing place. The company was one of many distributors who struggled with the pound’s plummet post-Brexit. Shifting viewing habits and a political system reluctant to impinge on U.S. studio dominance have also had a knock on effect on the independent community where growing polarization at the box office has led to a fragmented market. With well-known indie players such as Metrodome, Icon and The Works among those to back out of the space in the last two years consolidation is well underway.
Meanwhile, the Icon deal represents something of a coup for home entertainment specialists Kaleidoscope, which is unlikely to have paid a vast amount for it given Icon’s probable liabilities. Kaleidoscope is now on a roll given that this deal comes soon after it agreed to pick up the international sales slate and UK distribution of another former UK buyer, The Works.
Launched in November 2008 and led by CEO Spencer Pollard, the Kaleidoscope family comprises Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment (UK distribution), Kaleidoscope Film Distribution (international distribution and production), Kaleidoscope Entertainment (UK Theatrical) and distributor Platform Entertainment. The company has an extensive library of its own having released hundreds of movies including Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, Gerrard Barret’s Sundance award-winner Glassland and family animation Top Cat Begins. SMI is headed by city executive Sonny Schneider of the Schneider Group, who has a background in trading, broking, debt finance and early stage venture capital.
Kaleidoscope and Icon were unavailable for comment.