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Lionsgate appears poised to complete the long-in-the-making purchase of Summit Entertainment, which Deadline is putting at about $700M. An estimated $400M of that total would be in equity, while $300M would be made up in an assumption of debt in the form of a bank loan from JP Morgan to Lionsgate.
The two large independent studios have been maneuvering the ins and outs of a potential merger for months, but over time, the idea of a traditional “merger” has shifted, with Lionsgate likely assuming the lion’s share of control when the deal is hammered out. Deadline’s sources are divided on how much control Summit would have in a new company. In one scenario, Summit – best known as the supporter and distributor of the incredibly lucrative Twilight saga – could work “within the Lionsgate structure,” while Nikki Finke also suggests that Lionsgate has no intention of letting Summit operate as a buyer and movie-maker, as the studio has in the past.
That would be a shame. In addition to Twilight, Summit has supported challenging fare, from the cancer comedy 50/50 and Jodie Foster’s The Beaver to exciting sci-fi features like Source Code, The Brothers Grimm and Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky. Sure, for every Red there was a Remember Me, but for a small indie, Summit had a good track record.
Maybe the larger company can find a way to compete with the major studios, with Summit and Lionsgate continuing to somehow develop their slate to find room for features that wouldn’t have a chance at a Universal, Warner or Sony (to name just a few). But with this merger inching closer to reality, and the Hunger Games adaptation ready to hit theaters in March, Lionsgate is getting 2012 off on a very good foot.