NALIP Conference 9 Reality Panelist Sells Reality Company 51 Minds Entertainment to Endemol Co.
By Josef Adalian for Variety
In a deal valued at upward of $200 million, Endemol USA has acquired NALIP Conference 9 speaker Cris Abrego and Mark Cronin's 51 Minds Entertainment, the reality factory that perfected the celebreality genre with nonscripted comedies such as "Flavor of Love," "I Love New York" and "The Surreal Life."
Blockbuster pact, which had been rumored for months, comes in the wake of Elisabeth Murdoch's multimillion acquisition of Reveille. Both moves represent attempts by international congloms to expand their Stateside presence by gobbling up successful American producers.
What made 51 Minds particularly attractive to Endemol is the fact that Abrego and Cronin had ownership of both their formats and produced episodes of past series. That's highly unusual in the nonscripted genre, where networks and studios typically control the rights to programs, paying producers fees for their services.
"It's very hard to find companies in the nonscripted space that are prolific creators and owners of content and whose last names don't begin with 'S' or 'B'," said Endemol USA prexy David Goldberg, referring to Reveille founder Ben Silverman and Mark Burnett, respectively. "That was the key to this deal."
In addition, Goldberg noted that 51 Minds programming, which is almost entirely in the comedy reality arena, has proved to repeat well and sell in the syndication marketplace -- another reality rarity. Comedy fare also plays well in Internet-sized snippets, making 51 Minds content a good fit with Endemol's growing digital division.
Overall, Goldberg said that snapping up 51 Minds immediately "infuses the Endemol Group with fresh content, expands the library and significantly increases our U.S. market share." He also noted that both companies have a rep for developing "pioneering content."
Endemol is taking a 51% interest in 51 minds, with options to acquire a greater stake in the company at a later date. The $200 million figure doesn't represent the actual purchase price but rather the potential value of the deal if a host of financial targets are met over the next few years.
None of the parties involved would discuss specific dollar amounts, making it difficult to ascertain just how much cash is involved in the deal.
Endemol has been mulling a purchase of 51 Minds for more than a year, with Endemol senior VP of corporate development Ron Milkes leading the pursuit.
"They were on my radar from the moment I got here," Milkes said. "They immediately jumped out because of the ratings for their shows and the fact that they own their properties and formats."
Abrego and Cronin said Endemol will help 51 Minds expand in numerous areas, from product licensing and the Internet to the international marketplace.
"It's about exploiting our content and taking what we own and doing more with it," Cronin said. "We haven't done nearly enough with our shows."
Producers said they had long conversations with the Endemol team about creative independence and came away convinced a purchase wouldn't dramatically alter how they run their business.
"They were very clear and upfront that we could still be independent," Abrego said. "Our intention is to stay on course and continue to provide more hit programming for VH1 while simultaneously expanding to network television and new-media outlets."
Goldberg said he believes the 51 Minds crew will evolve beyond the celebreality genre into other formats --a goal Cronin and Abrego said they share.
"When you buy a company, you have to have a gut belief that the creative auspices still have a lot of ability left in the tank," he said. "And with Cris and Mark, you get two companies in one. Cris comes from a docusoap background, and Mark has a game and comedy background. That gives us the potential to get even more out of them."
Company has roughly 200 staffers, and no layoffs are anticipated. HQ for 51 Minds will remain in Los Angeles.
Cronin and Abrego formed 51 Minds in 2004 by melding Abrego's 51 Pictures and Cronin's Mindless Entertainment banner. The two producers began working together on the WB's "Surreal Life," which was dropped by the net after two seasons, only to explode in popularity after shifting to VH1.
The have since created 11 different franchises for VH1, most spun off of "Surreal Life." Other skeins produced by 51 Minds include "My Fair Brady" and "Rock of Love," along with numerous spinoffs.
Endemol USA -- which produces tentpole skeins such as "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Deal or No Deal" and "Big Brother" -- has bought two other companies in the past few years: True Entertainment and Original Media, both Gotham-based. Latter sale closed in the fall.
Goldberg seemed to indicate that Endemol may take a breath before gobbling up another asset.
"We're definitely still in purchase mode," he said. "But history has showed us there aren't that many companies that fit the bill of our acquisition model."
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Funding for Indie Productions: Linking Independents and Co-Producing Stations
LINCS from Independent Television Service (ITVS) provides completion funding in the form of matching funds up to $100,000 for collaborations between public TV stations and indie producers. Projects must already be in production as evidenced by a work-in-progress tape of at least five minutes. LINCS is looking for documentaries and innovative genre combinations. Only single shows of standard broadcast length (26:40 or 56:40) are eligible - no series. Programs should stimulate civic discourse and find innovative ways to explore regional, cultural, political, social or economic issues. Indie film and videomakers are encouraged to seek collaborations with their local public TV stations. Deadline: May 30, 2008
Check out the LINCS funding info at ITVS.org
Questions? Call Jonathan Archer at 415-356-8383 x284 or email email@example.com
Polychrome Pictures Releases "Innocent Voices"
Polychrome Pictures has announced that it will release the award-winning film INNOCENT VOICES on DVD April 8, 2008 via Warner Home Entertainment. Helmed by Luis Mandoki, a Mexico-born director who's titles include "White Palace," "Message in a Bottle" and "When a Man Loves a Woman," "Innocent Voices" delivers a powerfully intimate story of childhood, family, and the human spirit against the backdrop of war.
"Innocent Voices" focuses on Chava, an 11-year-old boy brilliantly portrayed by Carlos Padilla. Chava has become the "man of the house" as he helps his single mother, Kella (Leonor Varela), raise his siblings in war-torn El Salvador while bullets are literally flying through the walls of their home. Chava is a typical boy: likeable, precocious, even experiencing his first pangs of love; yet, his world has become a place where the government is forcibly recruiting 12 year old boys to fight against the peasant rebels of the FMLN. His daydreams of love become interrupted by the cruel reality of the child soldier.
Renowned film critic Roger Ebert refers to the moments where the government militia recruits the school children as the "most frightening scenes in the film."
"What sets "Innocent Voices" apart from other films about the Salvadorian civil war is its centered child's perspective," comments Danny Rodriguez, COO and Senior VP of Acquisitions at Polychrome Pictures. He continues, "This dedication to the human story found within such political upheaval is what compelled us to add this remarkable film to our catalogue of strong independent titles."
Polychrome acquired the film from Red Envelope, a subsidiary of Netflix, and will be distributing "Innocent Voices" in the US and Canada.
Based on the true story of screenwriter Oscar Torres's embattled childhood in 1980's El Salvador, "Innocent Voices" won Best Feature Film awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, the River Run IFF, and the Seattle IFF. It also received the prestigious Stanley Kramer Award from the Producers Guild of America.
More information about "Innocent Voices" DVD release can be found at Polychrome Picture's website: www.polychromepictures.com. Cast interviews and commentary can be found on "Innocent Voices" official site at www.innocentvoicesmovie.com
WIF Actors Group Meeting with Guest Speaker Allan Arkush
Women in Film Actors Group Meeting
Saturday, April 19th 1:30-3:30pm
(Doors open 1pm)
We are pleased and honored to have Allan Arkush a talented, creative, and dynamic director and executive producer is our guest speaker. Allan Arkush -- the only director to have directed both Frank Sinatra and Joey Ramone -- is executive producer and director of "Heroes," NBC's Emmy Award-nominated epic saga that chronicles the lives of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities. http://www.nbc.com/Heroes/
Mr. Arkush has extensive experience as a director. He began directing episodic television in 1984 with the popular series "Fame." In addition to directing the pilot and several episodes of "Crossing Jordan," he has directed episodes of "L.A. Law," "St. Elsewhere," "Moonlighting," "I'll Fly Away," "Dawson's Creek," "The Practice" and "Ally McBeal." Allan won an Emmy Award and received a Director's Guild of America Award nomination for directing the television movie "The Temptations." He also received Emmy nominations for his work on "Ally McBeal," including the dancing baby episode, and "Moonlighting."
Although Mr. Arkush has an extensive career in television, his true love is music. He has directed music videos for such notable artists as Elvis Costello, Bette Midler with Mick Jagger, and Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. In addition, Arkush directed rock-music television movies such as "Elvis Meets Nixon," "Shake, Rattle and Rock!," " XXX's & OOO's" and "Young at Heart," in which Frank Sinatra appeared, making him the only director to have directed both Sinatra and Ramone. Arkush's first job in music was at the Fillmore East in New York, where he handled the psychedelic lighting for such legendary bands as the Who and the Grateful Dead.
Come and learn all about the “relationships” directors, producers and writers have with the actors, the things to do and not do once you’ve been cast and much more.
To reserve a seat, RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org Please inform me if you are a member of WIF and how you heard about this event!
Members-No Charge (must show WIF ID)
Non Members-$15 cash or check only
Held at: Raleigh Studios-Los Angeles (c/o of Melrose and Van Ness)
Meeting in the Chaplin Theatre/ Chaplin Building.
Walk on through at the Van Ness Gate and check in with Security. Street Parking available or on lot parking fee-$5
Moderator and Chairperson of WIF Actors Group is:
Leslie Berger, Actress and Stand-Up Comic
Call for Entries: Urbanworld Film Festival
Urbanworld Film Festival is the leading showcase for urban, ethnic, and multicultural cinema. Over the past 11 years, the festival has presented over 600 features, shorts and documentaries, with attendance reaching 15,000+. Urbanworld is one of the world's largest competitive film festivals to redefine and enhance the roles of multicultural constituents in contemporary cinema.
The NYC based fest runs from September 10-14, 2008. PRIZES AWARDED TO FOLLOWING CATEGORIES: narrative feature, narrative short, documentary feature, documentary short, and screenplay. Please visit us NOW at
http://www.urbanworld.org OR http://www.withoutabox.com to submit your film.
SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS MAY 31st!