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Lions Gate Grabs Swayze Rights

Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) is buying 332 movies in an ongoing push to build its film library.

The independent film and TV producer and distributor, which is headquartered in Vancouver and Los Angeles, agreed to buy the bulk of films held by Modern Entertainment Ltd., a unit of European pay TV broadcaster Modern Times Group.

Terms weren't disclosed, but the acquisition includes to the rights the Arnold classic Conan the Barbarian, Ragtime, some spin chillers like Amityville and Halloween II & III and the much disputed title Earth Girls Are Easy.

"This will be an accretive, strategic acquisition that meets all of our transactional criteria and reflects our commitment to continue growing our library base as a source of stable, reliable cash flow," said Lions Gate's Steve Beeks. "The Modern Entertainment library contains a broad range of quality content and brings valuable long-term VOD and TV rights that are consistent with our ongoing strategy of transitioning our core asset into a library of the future."

The company late last month reported a 124% rise in fiscal 2005 revenue. The results were driven by the box office success of movies like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Open Water. TV production revenue jumped 36%, thanks to shows like The Dead Zone on USA Network and Missing on Lifetime. Lion's Gate home entertainment revenue was up 108%.

Beeks pointed out that many of the titles Lion's Gate is acquiring will be "owned in perpetuity." He said more than 95% include television rights and a majority of the titles include VOD rights, "further positioning Lions Gate's library to exploit future technologies."

For those bemoaning the undervaluation of Patrick Swayze on the Hollywood scene, Lions Gate also noted that the acquisition will unite all rights to the Modern-owned Vestron titles under its roof, including all rights to Dirty Dancing.

The company says it sells 1 million Dirty Dancing DVDs per year. Lions Gate produced a sequel this year, is mulling a reality television series, has a new musical stage play touring Australia and Japan and is planning a 20th anniversary theatrical and DVD re-release of the original film in late 2007.

Apart from having the time of its life, the company, which also operates substantial film production facilities in Canada, was trading up 15 cents to $9.49 on Thursday.

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