Now that entertainment mogul Robert “Bob” Johnson closed his acquisition of Chatsworth’s Image Entertainment last week, the Black Entertainment Television founder is revealing more details about his newly formed distribution company.
The firm, RLJ Entertainment Inc., will acquire and license content from studios and independent producers. Like BET three decades ago, RLJ will give exposure to black artists who haven’t yet broken through.
Image Entertainment already acquires so-called urban films, such as “All Things Fall Apart,” a movie released last year starring rapper 50 Cent, but Johnson said there is a big opportunity to become the central destination for such content.
“We know the audience wants to see content. The biggest problem is lack of access to capital to produce projects and lack of a dedicated distribution channel once they make it,” he said.
Johnson said he’s been encouraged by the recent success of movies targeted to black audiences, such as those produced by Tyler Perry, as well as last year’s “Jumping the Broom,” which was produced by Our Stories Films, an L.A. production company he co-founded.
To address financing, he’s in talks with RLJ’s lender, SunTrust Bank of Atlanta, about establishing a film fund whereby independent producers can receive advance funding for productions the company will distribute.
RLJ, based in Bethesda, Md., has combined Image’s library of thousands of titles that span horror, independent, genre and even fitness, with the library from Acorn Media Group, a Silver Spring, Md., company with a library heavily comprising British TV shows. He also recently acquired Acorn.
RLJ also is pushing forward into digital distribution, by rolling out genre-specific online channels next year. Johnson is further seeking to license the content to Netflix Inc. or Amazon.com Inc. as well as pursuing pay TV and DVD deals.
Johnson purchased Image and Acorn through a blank-check company, RLJ Acquisition Inc., which raised $144 million in an initial public offering last year. After the closing of the deal, the company changed its name to RLJ Entertainment Inc. and was preparing to be listed on the Nasdaq.
The company projects a $2.4 to $3 million profit for this year, according to a presentation given to investors. Ted Green, Image’s former chief executive, is heading the new company.
Robert Routh, an analyst at Phoenix Partners Group in New York, said he likes RLJ’s prospects given Johnson’s track record and extensive relationships in Hollywood.
“This is a guy that people will invest in on faith,” he said. “Ultimately, I think it’s going to be a great company with a lot of content.”
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.