MGM and Annapurna create joint venture to distribute their own movies

Storied studio is teaming up with upstart Annapurna Pictures to get back into the business of distributing its own movies.

MGM, run by Gary Barber, and Annapurna, founded by Megan Ellison, have formed a joint venture to release about 15 movies a year, the companies said Tuesday.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deal, which has been in the works for about a year, is meant to give the companies more control over the marketing and distribution of their films, while sharing the costs of doing so. The move comes at a time when new distributors are struggling to compete with streaming video and blockbuster studio franchises.

Both studios are trying to assert more control over their fates while limiting the financial risks of a challenging film market. Annapurna, based in West Hollywood, launched a distribution arm earlier this year with the prestige movie “Detroit,” a film that sputtered at the box office despite strong reviews.

The pact represents a major step for MGM, which emerged from bankruptcy protection seven years ago after years of financial struggles. MGM’s movies have since been released by major Hollywood studios such as and Paramount. The new deal lets the Beverly Hills-based studio keep more of the revenue from movies released in theaters, home video and streaming.

“The time has come for MGM to regain control of its own destiny and return to U.S. theatrical distribution,” said Barber, MGM’s chief executive. “This efficient distribution model enables us to retain more distribution rights to our feature film releases and create additional revenue opportunities for MGM.”

The new venture will have a staff of nearly 50 people.

MGM’s first movie released under the agreement will be “Death Wish,” a remake of the 1974 revenge thriller, in March, followed by the musical “Valley Girl” in June.

The studios will release about a dozen of their own movies collectively each year, plus three to four films produced by other companies.

Some of MGM’s movies still will be released by other studios because of existing agreements. Those include the “Tomb Raider” reboot Warner Bros. is distributing next year and the animated “Sherlock Gnomes” for Paramount.

Distribution plans for MGM’s lucrative James Bond franchise remain unknown. The company has been courted by the major Hollywood studios for the rights to release the 007 movies. Sony has handled distribution for recent films in the series.

MGM, which has been boosted by a thriving television business, took a step into the film distribution space earlier this year when it announced the of the Orion Pictures banner.

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