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Cohen Media Group Buys HanWay Films in Major Acquisition

Courtesy of Martin Dale

Cohen Media Group has acquired producer Jeremy Thomas’ prestigious international sales company HanWay Films in a major deal.

Cohen Media Group owns Landmark Theatres in the U.S. and British distributor-exhibitor Curzon. HanWay Films was founded by “The Last Emperor” producer Thomas and is co-owned with his partner Peter Watson.

Under the deal, HanWay Films will continue to be branded as an independent label selling theatrical titles to its distribution partners worldwide. It’s still unclear how much an exclusive tie-in there will be to parent company-owned Curzon.

Peter Watson will continue to serve as president, with Gabrielle Stewart as CEO.

Philip Knatchbull, CEO of Curzon, negotiated the transaction on behalf of Cohen Media Group.

Based in London, HanWay Films’ current slate of upcoming movies comprises a dozen titles, with eight films in production or scheduled to go into production this year. Recent projects include the Cannes-winning “EO” as well as Julia Garner-starring “The Royal Hotel” and Uberto Pasolini’s “The Return,” which will reunite “The English Patient” stars Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche.

The wider catalogue includes 350 classic independent films from master directors such as Andrea Arnold, Jane Campion, David Cronenberg, Clint Eastwood, Milos Forman, Peter Greenaway, Todd Haynes, Takeshi Kitano, Steve McQueen, Sally Potter and Wim Wenders.

Meanwhile, Cohen Media Group’s Cohen Film Collection has its own library of over 800 films, which includes wide-ranging classic cinema from Buster Keaton and the independent films of Merchant Ivory Productions, best known for “Howards End” and “Maurice.”

The deal is the second major acquisition of a European sales company in the last year. In January, arthouse streamer and distributor MUBI bought German sales outfit and producer The Match Factory.

Charles S. Cohen, owner and chairman of Cohen Media Group, said of the deal: “HanWay is an established and recognized leader in the international sales market and Jeremy Thomas has long had a commitment to a style of filmmaking that aligns perfectly with our vision. With the fundamental changes continuing to happen in our industry, we are proud to make HanWay part of our existing brand.”

Thomas added: “25 years in the sales agency business has given me enormous satisfaction. I am immensely proud of the business I have built with Peter Watson. In Gabrielle Stewart, the company has an outstanding CEO. I look forward to continuing the vital and stimulating relationship with HanWay that has sustained my films for so many years. I’m pleased to be handing over the baton to Charles Cohen.”

Watson, president of HanWay Films, called the “opportunities for growth inherent in the integration of our sales business into a larger and dynamic international structure are very exciting. Together we are a force in independent cinema.”

Stewart, CEO of HanWay Films, added that the deal is a “big opportunity to broaden our business with a greater focus on getting involved in projects earlier. We will have the dynamic ability to package, finance and develop IP in a host of different ways and with a greater connection to distribution, while remaining true to the filmmaker-friendly and marketing-driven spirit that defines us as a team.”

Thomas’ Recorded Picture Company will maintain its close relationship to HanWay Films, which will continue to represent films from his upcoming slate. Watson will also continue his role as CEO of Recorded Picture Company. HanWay Films will also continue to represent The Jeremy Thomas Collection, Thomas’s library of films.

Variety's Manori Ravindran contributed to this post.

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