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MGM negotiating to renew DVD pact with Fox as it finalizes partnership with Sony

11-Mar-2011 • Collecting

Sony may not have the lion all to itself. The recently restructured Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is in negotiations to renew its DVD worldwide distribution agreement with 20th Century Fox. The News Corp.-owned studio would continue to release MGM's vast film library and distribute select new productions in the home entertainment market, according to people close to the situation, reports the LA Times.

The development comes as MGM 's new co-chief executives Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum are also finalizing a partnership for Sony Pictures to handle the worldwide theatrical distribution of its movies. The studios also plan to co-finance a number of each other's upcoming films, including at least two of MGM's James Bond sequels.

One person familiar with the matter said that Fox would release new movies that MGM fully finances on DVD. For films it co-finances with Sony, some would be handled by Fox and others by Sony's home entertainment unit.

Splitting theatrical and home entertainment distribution between different studios is unusual in Hollywood, but not unprecedented. The same thing happened with MGM's 2008 James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace," which was released in theaters by co-financier Sony and on DVD by Fox.

After MGM was acquired by a consortium of private investors led by Sony Corp. in 2004, the Japanese conglomerate's Culver City studio took control of the MGM library in home entertainment. But, by 2006, dissatisfied with Sony's performance, MGM ended the DVD deal and shifted to Fox, where a dedicated team handles the MGM titles and, people close to the situation said, has been more successful than Sony.

That agreement expires in September, but is now expected to be renewed.

Fox also currently handles overseas theatrical distribution of MGM movies, but that responsibility is expected to shift to Sony under the agreement currently being negotiated.

People familiar with the matter said negotiations between MGM and Sony are close to being finalized. Among the points left to resolve are which Sony movies MGM would be allowed to co-finance. Those being considered include December's big-screen adaptation of "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," directed by David Fincher, and next year's reboot of the science-fiction action film "Total Recall."

MGM would retain television rights in some countries for the films it co-finances with Sony, said people familiar with the talks.

Spokespeople for Fox, MGM and Sony declined to comment.

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