By Nick Vivarelli
Variety International Correspondent
ROME – Italy’s Leone Film Group, the company originally founded by spaghetti western master Sergio Leone, has forged a strategic pact with local indie distributor Eagle Pictures that will see them co-release the next two instalments in Lionsgate’s “The Divergent Series” – “Allegiant” and “Ascendant” – and also Keanu Reeves-starrer “John Wick 2” and Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” toplining Andrew Garfield.
Additionally going forward Eagle will be exclusively handling distribution on plenty of Leone’s new titles over the next three years.
The companies will equally split costs and profits for distribution on all Italo platforms on the four announced pics.
Leone’s heirs, who entered the Italo distribution arena in 2000, have output deals with Lionsgate and Dreamworks and close rapports with several U.S. indies, including The Weinstein Company. They have a 400-title library that includes all Italo rights to “Point Break,” “Traffic,” and Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X,” besides most of Leone’s works that they have bought back since his death in 1989.
Eagle Pictures, which is owned by Franco-Tunisian mogul Tarak Ben Ammar, is a prominent Italo distribbery which has had its ups and downs in the theatrical arena but has close rapports with Italo broadcasters and a proven ability to soar at the Italo box office with the right product.
The deal “increases the range of players with which Leone Film Group has important commercial agreements, confirming the quality of the product we acquired thanks to our exclusive deals with the most important international production and distribution companies,” boasted Leone group managing director Andrea Leone in a statement.
Leone Film Group has historically had a close rapport with Italo pubcaster Rai’s Rai Cinema and its 01 Distribuzione unit, with which it will release Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming “The Hateful Eight.” Now Eagle looks set to become Leone’s number one distribution partner.