Open Debate: Relativity Media to Acquire Rogue Library

There are some pretty huge developments in the world of Hollywood, some major deals that could impact our genre for better — or for worse. News hit the wire this evening that Relativity Media is in negotiations with Universal to acquire the assets of Rogue Pictures, the genre label of the studio. What does this mean? If the deal goes through, Relativity will be responsible for releasing such upcoming horror films as David Goyer’s The Unborn and Wes Crvane’s The Last House on the Left remake, while also developing Castlevania, the hotly anticipated Hack/Slash adaptation and The Strangers 2. We can only pray that they have a definitive love and respect for our genre, because we need a champion. Relativity, will they come through? Only time will tell. Read on for further details and chat below with some of your thoughts.
Relativity Media is in negotiations with Universal to acquire the assets of Rogue Pictures, the genre label of the studio.

The proposed deal would see Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity purchase 13 library titles, four upcoming films and more than 30 projects in development at Rogue, which was launched in 2004 as a division of Universal’s Focus Features. In 2007 Rogue became an independent specialty unit of the parent studio.

The deal, if completed, would have an added benefit for film financier Relativity because it would allow Relativity to distribute the films it produces, as well as the Rogue titles it is acquiring, through Uni’s distribution system.

As it moves beyond the hedge fund business to raise its own profile as a producer, Relativity has begun to produce movies separate from its slate investments at such studios as Universal and Sony. It has ramped up its own development activities, aggressively acquiring projects like “The Low Dweller,” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ridley Scott attached. But until now, it has lacked a consistent way to distribute its own product.

Universal would continue to market and distribute the Rogue films that Relativity is acquiring, and Relativity would also be able to turn to Uni to handle other titles. Under the terms that have been discussed, Uni would get a 12.5% distribution fee in all media except for its TV output deals, where it would get 15%.

Since Rogue’s activities will be continuing under new ownership, it is not immediately clear how the acquistion will affect the unit’s current execs and employees.

The discussions have been taking place for several months and are reaching a critical phase in the wake of Universal’s recently completed distribution pact with DreamWorks. Universal releases about 18-20 titles domestically each year, plus another six films from Focus and another four from Rogue. While it will now have to accommodate DreamWorks titles, the studio said last week that it will be able to handle the films from all its labels.

At the same time, it is seeking ways to cut costs after NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker last week ordered a companywide reduction of 3% in next year’s budget.

Neither Relativity or Universal would comment Monday.

The purchase would cover Rogue films now in postproduction, which include “Fighting,” starring Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard; Platinum Dunes’ “Unborn,” from writer-director David Goyer, and a remake of “Last House on the Left.”

Relativity also would pick up the first-look deals Rogue has with Platinum Dunes and Wes Craven, while Uni would get first right of refusal, for a set period of time, for any sequels based on any of the movies released.

The Rogue library that Relativity would be acquiring includes 13 films, including this summer’s hit “The Strangers.”

Rogue’s development slate numbers 32 projects, ranging from the adaptations of the video game “Castlevania” and the comic book “Hack/Slash” to the 1980s teen movie remake “Three O’Clock High” and “Strangers 2.”

Last month in a separate agreement, Relativity and Universal said they had extended and expanded their co-finance partnership through 2015, which will cover the majority of Uni’s slate.