IDT Ent. To Acquire Distrib Anchor Bay

IDT Ent., which just finalized its purchase of a controlling interest in Canadian CG-animation company Mainframe Ent., has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase the Anchor Bay Entertainment Group from Handleman Company. Anchor Bay is an independent home video distributor that handles the lucrative Thomas the Tank Engine kids animated video series, among others. The $50 million transaction is expected to close in the next couple of weeks.

IDT CFO Steve Brown noted that Anchor Bay’s current management structure will remain in place, but former Sony Wonder CEO Ted Green will be brought in to head up the company. The distributor will also continue to operate out of Troy, Michigan.

Anchor Bay will become an operating unit of IDT Ent., a subsidiary of multinational carrier, telephone and technology company IDT Corp. The purchase will provide the rapidly growing conglom with an avenue for international DVD/VHS distribution as it continues to snatch up animation companies.

In May of this year, IDT Ent. bought a controlling stake in Film Roman, the animation house behind The Simpsons and King of the Hill, among others. A couple of months later, the company acquired a minority equity interest in Vanguard Animation LLC, which has a four-picture deal with Disney and is currently producing the CG WWII courier pigeon comedy/adventure Valiant for the Mouse House.

Under the terms of the Vanguard Animation investment, IDT Ent. was granted a first-look right to provide production services on future Vanguard Animation projects. The two companies also entered into an agreement to jointly develop, produce, finance and arrange distribution of computer-animation titles.

IDT CEO Jim Courter comments, "IDT Entertainment is now a vertically integrated company with the ability to control its direct-to-consumer projects from concept to delivery."

IDT’s computer-animation unit, Digital Production Solutions (DPS), acquired rights to the previously undeveloped Gene Roddenberry properties Starpoint Academy and Char, and has already put Starpoint into production. DPS is also contracted to provide production services on the feature Brothers Grimm fairytale reinterpretation Happily N’Ever After for Vanguard and German production company Berlin Animation Film (BAF).

In addition to moving its own product through Anchor Bay, IDT intends to promote the distributor’s current catalog, which includes the popular horror franchises Halloween, The Evil Dead, Hellraiser and Dawn of the Dead. Animated titles include French director Rene Laloux’s sci-fi cult favorite Fantastic Planet, The P.J. Funnybunny series and the Rankin-Bass classics Mad Monster Party, The Daydreamer and The Wacky World of Mother Goose.