Act III Communications

Act III Communications is a diversified media and entertainment company owned by TV producer Norman Lear. It was started in 1985 following Lear's sale of Embassy Communications to The Coca-Cola Company. In a Wall St. Journal interview in 1988, Lear explained the name by noting that in a Shakespeare play there are always more than three acts and that he expects there to be an Act IV and V.[1][2] Act III is Lear's business vehicle and is unconnected to his other activities as a political activist and philanthropist.

Act III notable investments and ventures

Among the many activities of Act III Communications are a minority interest in Village Roadshow Pictures (VRP); an ownership interest in Concord Music Group (later merged with VRP to create Village Roadshow Entertainment Group); Act III Broadcasting; Act III Theatres; Act III Publishing; and Act III Television, a joint venture formed with Columbia Pictures Television in February 1989;[3][4] and Act III Merchandising which handles the merchandising for "The Princess Bride" among other properties. Act III Broadcasting was divested for approximately $500 million in 1994/95 to ABRY Partners; Act III Theatres was divested to KKR in 1997 for just under $700 million while Concord Music Group was divested in 2013 to Wood Creek Capital for $115 million. Act III/Lear continue to own the two Rob Reiner directed films it produced, Stand By Me and The Princess Bride. Act III/Lear continues to hold an interest in Village Roadshow Pictures/Village Roadshow Entertainment.

Village Roadshow Pictures

Through a group led by Act III Communications, in January 2006, Norman Lear and his partner Hal Gaba purchased 50% of Village Roadshow Pictures (VRP), the Los Angeles-based, U.S. film production arm of Village Roadshow Limited, one of Australia’s leading entertainment and media companies. Their entity, Crescent Film Group included longtime associate Michael Lambert through Lambert Media Group and Clarity Partners as investors.[5] Crescent invested $115 million for the interest in VRP.[6] The Australian parent, Village Roadshow Limited (VRL) also operates movie theaters; film production and distribution in Australia; TVand Video distribution; radio stations; and theme parks including "Warner Movie World." VRP co-produces and/or co-finances 6-8 movies per year. Historically a long-term partner with Warner Brothers, VRP moved its distribution to Sony Pictures in 2014.[7] VRP's library includes films such as The Great Gatsby, Winter's Tale, The Lego Movie, the Matrix trilogy, Miss Congeniality, Training Day, Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and others. This interest has been diluted with subsequent expansion and re-capitalizations of VRP but remains a significant interest for Act III. Village Roadshow Pictures used the $115 million invested by Crescent to repay an inter-company loan of $100 million owed to its parent company, as well as pay a $15 million dividend to the existing VRP shareholders and management.[8]

Concord Music Group

Norman Lear is also chairman emeritus of the Concord Music Group (aka Concord Records) one of the world’s largest independent record and music publishing companies, which was acquired by Lear and his associate Hal Gaba in 1999 and divested to Wood Creek Capital in 2013. Concord is one of the leading producers and distributors of classic and contemporary Jazz musicians and also owns the legendary Stax label which it acquired in 2004 as part of the Fantasy Records acquisition.[9]

Concord was acquired as a labor of love at the urging of Lear's long time associate and then-CEO of Act III Communications Hal Gaba. Gaba was CEO of Act III from late 1990, when he succeeded Tom McGrath, until his untimely passing in 2009. Gaba had long dreamed of owning a record company and in 1999 he developed the Concorde opportunity.

The Concord Music Group had/has an extensive roster of household name artists that includes one of Gaba’s favorite singers, who was also a personal friend - Frank Sinatra (Gaba produced a live tribute show regarding Frank Sinatra that included marrying archival film footage with live performances called Sinatra, His Voice, His World that played Radio City Music Hall[10]). Other artists on Concord's labels include Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Chick Corea, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sergio Mendes and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Concord Records started a relationship with Starbucks in 2003 that reached a high point with the release of Genius Loves Company, Ray Charles’ last recording. The album went on to win 8 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.[11]

In early 2007, Concord and Starbucks launched a joint venture record label - Hear Music. With guaranteed distribution at thousands of Starbucks store, the label attracted Paul McCartney who left EMI for the new label. James Taylor, John Mellencamp and Joni Mitchell all recorded for Hear Music before the partnership was terminated by Starbucks which was reacting to the general decline in physical sales of recorded music that made the label unprofitable.[12]

Village Roadshow Entertainment Group

In 2008, Concord Music Group merged into Village Roadshow Pictures to form Village Roadshow Entertainment Group (VREG).[13][14] Investors in VREG included the shareholders of Crescent as shown above, as well as Australia's Village Roadshow Limited and Tailwind Capital[15]Concord Music Group was sold to Wood Creek Capital, an affiliate of Mass Mutual Insurance in 2013 for approximately $115 million.[16]

Film productions

Theater productions

  • Arsenic and Old Lace (play, comedy, revival) - produced by Act III Productions (Norman Lear, founder) Jun 26, 1986 - Jan 03, 1987, starring Jean Stapleton and Tony Roberts; opened on Broadway following a national tour[23][24]

Television productions

Shareholders

Act III was initially formed by Lear as a 100% controlled investment and management vehicle for his post-Embassy Communications business activities. In January 1989, Tractebel S.A., a large Belgian utility company with interests in Cable TV in Europe acquired a 20% equity stake in Act III Communications for $30 million, placing a value on the start-up venture's equity of $150 million. Tractebel was headed by Baron Philippe Bodson who oversaw the formation of Tractebell from the merger of Tractionel and Electrobel. Société Générale de Belgique (SGB) holds 50.3%of Tractebel's stock. SGB, Belgium's largest holding company, is in turn controlled by France's Suez-Lyonnaise, the holding giant formed by the merger of Compagnie de Suez and Lyonnaise des Eaux in early 1997. Tractebel sold its shares back to Act III and related parties in 1991.[32]

Notes

  1. LLC, Sussex Publishers (1 June 1989). "Spy". Sussex Publishers, LLC. Retrieved 10 April 2017 via Google Books.
  2. Wall St. Journal April 8, 1988
  3. "Norman Lear, Columbia Form Joint TV Venture" Los Angeles Times February 2, 1989
  4. "Lear Joins With Columbia To Produce TV, Not Manage" New York TimesFebruary 2, 1989
  5. Lambert Media Group Overview PDF Archived February 20, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  6. LaPorte, Nicole (23 October 2005). "Lear's Crescent rounds out". Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  7. Cheney, Alexandra (5 May 2014). "Village Roadshow Inks Co-Finance Deal with Sony Pictures (EXCLUSIVE)". Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  8. Variety July 27, 2005
  9. Gallo, Phil (19 December 2006). "Concord resurrects Stax". Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  10. "Sinatra: His Voice. His World. His Way". Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  11. "Ray Charles big winner at Grammy Awards". Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  12. "Starbucks Refines Its Entertainment Strategy" News.starbucks.com Archived 2013-01-16 at the Wayback Machine
  13. Concord Music Group News March 11, 2009 Archived November 1, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  14. "Village Roadshow Pictures and Concord Music Group Join Forces" JazzReview.com 29 January 2008
  15. Clarity Partners Release PDF
  16. "Concord Music Group to be Sold to Wood Creek Capital Management", Billboard.com, 25 March 2013
  17. Box Office Mojo Stand By Me
  18. The Numbers - Stand By Me
  19. Box Office Mojo The Princess Bride
  20. The Numbers - The Princess Bride
  21. Box Office Mojo Breaking In
  22. Box Office Mojo Fried Green Tomatoes
  23. Frank Rich, "Arsenic and Old Lace Revival" New York Times June 27, 1986
  24. Broadway World Arsenic and Old Lace
  25. IMDB Sunday Dinner
  26. IMDB The Powers That Be
  27. IMDB 704 Hauser
  28. IMDB Channel Umptee-3
  29. IMDB Tait Stages (TV Series 2013), retrieved 2017-07-20
  30. IMDB America Divided
  31. IMDB One Day at a Time (2017 TV Series)
  32. "History of Tractebel S.A. – FundingUniverse". Retrieved 10 April 2017.
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