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Robert Johnson Talks Image Ent/Acorn Media Acquisition; Wants To Emulate Tyler Perry’s Appeal

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act October 9, 2012 at 12:12PM

With the recent announcement that Robert Johnson's RLJ Acquisitions had formally completed the purchase of Image Entertainment and Acorn Media, creating RLJ Entertainment Inc., a "formidable" indie distribution company, as they labeled it, in an interview after the October 3rd announcement, Robert Johnson talked in detail, in an interview, about the newly formed company's plans.
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Robert Johnson
RLJ Enterprises Robert Johnson

With the recent announcement that Robert Johnson's RLJ Acquisitions had formally completed the purchase of Image Entertainment and Acorn Media, creating RLJ Entertainment Inc., a "formidable" indie distribution company, as they labeled it, in an interview after the October 3rd announcement, Robert Johnson talked in detail, in an interview, about the newly formed company's plans.

He says a few things that I think are worth sharing here, and you should be aware of, especially with ongoing conversations about ownership and power in this business.

- First, the purchase itself, a $127 million deal, is certainly worth acknowledging; as I oted in a past post, in case you're not already aware... Image Entertainment is the acquisition and distribution company (primarily) behind the releases of several recent titles we've written about, like 50 Cent's All Things Fall Apart, Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer (home video), Matthew Cherry's The Last Fall, Dysfunctional Friends, the Berine Mac documentary, I Ain't Scared Of You, amongst many, many others. So, I expect to see a lot more "black films" acquired for release by Image, which is now owned by RLJ Entertainment - a black owned company.

- Secondly, Johnson says that he wants to emulate Tyler Perry’s approach and appeal in the black market, but in the digital space, by launching an urban-based subscription video-on-demand service that will feature Image Entertainment's 800 hours of product, as well as some thirdparty content.

- Third, he plans to complement Image Entertainment and Acorn Media's existing libraries with brand new product created under RLJ, with a $60 million film-financing pool that he will use to attract content creators/producers who have the talent and the ideas, but not the money to realize put their talents to work in realizing those ideas, or the distribution to ensure the end product gets in front of as many as the *right* eyeballs as possible. Johnson doesn't say if he's looking at specific filmmakers or producers, or content creators to partner up with to produce this new product to augment the existing; nor does he say how he'll find them; but he does mention minority talents specifically. $60 million (which is about the average cost of a studio film these days, or maybe even less than average), may not seem like much, especially when compared to smaller studios like The Weinstein Company, who are securing upwards of $1 billion in financing; but we're not talking high-budget, blockbuster fare here, in RLJ's case. Their objectives are probably very different as well. As he said, "We see this as a way to get some of those low-cost digital titles made and distributed."

- Fourth, as far as his YouTube channel is concerned... Johnson says it will an ad-supported Faith Channel (so no pay-per-view here). Tracey Edmonds is leading the charge on the programming end (recall she also runs Our Stories Films Inc, which is another Robert Johnson creation). He added, "The key to all of this is compelling programming with a marketing strategy that gets the consumer aware of the product." Indeed, especially with regards to the first half of that statement - emphasis on creating "compelling programming."  

There's more where all this came from, so feel free to read the full interview HERE.

But this is something to watch, going forward. 


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