EXCLUSIVE: Fox Entertainment has acquired MarVista Entertainment, the prolific independent studio which produces and distributes original movies for traditional and streaming networks worldwide. No one would comment but sources pegged the value of the deal at over $100 million.
The acquisition, spearheaded by Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier and MarVista CEO and Founding Partner Fernando Szew, gives Fox production capabilities in the live-action scripted space to complement its production capabilities in unscripted via the in-house Fox Alternative Entertainment and in the animated scripted arena via the acquisition of Bento Box.
In addition to a production infrastructure which is supporting a bustling pipeline of roughly 80 titles annually across all genres, MarVista is bringing its business model for efficient production, an established global distribution operation as well as a catalogue consisting of more than 2,500 hours (about 750 titles) of owned programming, including a deep roster of holiday movies.
Libraries are increasingly valuable amid the current proliferation of streaming platforms which need content to scale up. That includes AVOD Tubi, which Fox Entertainment acquired 21 months ago. MarVista Entertainment already has supplied three original movies tor Tubi, thrillers Twisted House Sister and The Deadliest Lie, which it produced, and the holiday-themed A Chance For Christmas, which it distributes. The films, which had been commissioned prior to Fox and MarVista’s acquisition talks, have done well on the streaming service whose original programming strategy is built around movies.
The acquisition of Los Angeles-based MarVista was made with Tubi in mind as Fox is looking to supercharge the company’s digital growth. MarVista will focus on developing and producing content for the AVOD platform Additionally, the studio also will continue to work with its roster of third-party buyers and co-production partners, while distributing its own — and third parties’ content — globally.
Szew will remain at the helm of MarVista post-acquisition, reporting to Fox Entertainment President of Production Strategy and Operations, Stefan Reinhardt. The company’s offices will relocate to the Fox lot.
The Missing Piece
Since Fox became an independent broadcast network following Disney’s 2020 acquisition of its sister studio 20th Century Fox Television (among other 20th Century Fox assets), Fox Entertainment has been steadily and carefully building and acquiring production capabilities with the launch of Fox Alternative Entertainment and the acquisitions of Bento Box, TMZ, whose TV shows air on the Fox Stations, and Studio Ramsay, the company of the network’s top reality star Gordon Ramsay with whom Fox Entertainment recently launched new, co-owned production entity Studio Ramsay Global. MarVista provides a missing piece in the operation Fox Entertainment has been building post-Disney deal, bringing in global distribution capability Fox didn’t have in-house.
“And so, what the next capability that Fernando and the team filled so well was to have a strategic, forward-looking production and distribution entity that is globally respected,” Collier said in an interview with Deadline. “We looked at the marketplace. We spoke to a number of players. We wanted something that had a disciplined approach and was right-sized.”
Collier stressed that “Fox is not trying to rebuild what it sold. In fact, we get very much to jump a few levels forward, and in this acquisition, we’re being disciplined and entrepreneurial and bringing in a partner in Fernando — and really everyone at MarVista — where we can come to market in a really nimble and strategic way.”
While original movies for TV and streaming have been MarVista’s core business, the company has experience in producing and distributing scripted series, including the Power Rangers franchise. Fox Entertainment is currently in production on its first fully owned live-action scripted series, Monarch. There have been no discussions yet about MarVista taking over production/distribution of the show but Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn has been in touch with MarVista’s Head of Creative Affairs Hannah Pillemer and her team to explore potential collaborations.
Thorn and his Fox Entertainment team have been experimenting with different development and production models, including making scripted series in an efficient way for summer, which the Fantasy Island reboot from Sony TV is done under. That fits into MarVista’s own programming strategy of producing original scripted content at an attractive price point.
“Content is content, and things are converging,” Szew told Deadline. “So if you’re making a movie and maybe you’re doing a wheel of movies or you’re doing a limited series, those are areas that we’re looking forward to be playing in; we do have that kind of expertise, but the approach that we’ve had has always been very disciplined. When we had relatively limited resources, we were hyper focused on what we did best, which were movies.”
Fox will explore implementing MarVista’s nimble and efficient approach to development and production to try to improve production operations company-wide. Additionally, the network will be getting access to MarVista’s next-generation talent pool of first-time storytellers, creators and directors that the company often employs for its movies.
Szew and Scott Greenberg, the CEO of Bento Box, know each other well, and there already have been conversations about MarVista potentially distributing internationally Fox Entertainment’s owned animation series, starting with Dan Harmon’s Krapopolis, Collier said. (Fox Alternative’s owned unscripted series, including The Masked Singer and Alter Ego, are being distributed internationally by Propagate.)
“Scott at Bento Box and myself, who have been neighbors at MIPCOM, have been chomping at the bit, being able to talk to international partners, looking to do some really innovative and interesting co-production arrangements, early distribution arrangements,” Szew said.
MarVista’s Fox Future
Launched in 2003, MarVista had been courted by a number of potential suitors over the past five years, with the interest intensifying amid the pandemic, Szew admitted.
“Coming out of Covid, with the success we had in spite of the difficulties in the early days of the pandemic, once we aligned and figured out the protocols and worked with external partners to do that, we came out of Covid even stronger than we were coming into it, with all the different platforms that now have such a vast demand for content and especially for content that can be produced efficiently and effectively,” he said.
When Fox called to throw their hat into the ring, Szew had dinner with Collier. “Meeting him at that first dinner, it was very clear to me that I was going to hopefully — which is now confirmed — join a very like-minded company with a very entrepreneurial spirit and forward thinking, and that would allow us to continue to be nimble and be our best selves,” Szew said. “That’s the promise that I had for myself and for my people, which is, we can continue to do what we love but do it with more resources. I think the sky is the limit as to what our growth can be.”
At the close of Fox Entertainment’s acquisition of MarVista, which came after a lengthy courtship, the company’s 2,500-hour library won’t automatically become available on Tubi.
“A lot of it is already spoken for, it’s already subject to windows, and we’re going to adhere to all those agreements, needless to say,” Szew said. “We’re going to continue to be good partners and seek out what’s best for the content. Oftentimes, where the marketplace seems to be going right now with a lot of opportunities for the type of fare that we’re taking to market is to really do more rapid-fire, shorter windows, sometimes non-exclusively. So, if the market evolves, we’re going to continue to evolve with the market.”
Still, “there’s already MarVista (content) on Tubi, and there’ll be more of it for sure,” Collier said, adding that Tubi’s Chief Content Officer Adam Lewinson and his team “have been so enthusiastic about the acquisition as well because it’s consistent with their strategy, both on the acquisition side and the disciplined original programming side.”
Szew stressed the company’s commitment to its existing third-party partners after becoming part of Fox. “We are looking forward to being better partners to the existing partners that we worked so hard to align with and to serve, both domestically and internationally,” he said.
MarVista’s notable producing partnerships include an agreement with Lionsgate to remake classic TV movies from the Hearst library as well as pacts with WarnerMedia in Latin America; and Neshama in Canada.
Recent third-party titles produced and distributed by MarVista include Prime Video’s upcoming Christmas is Cancelled, starring Hayley Orrantia, Dermot Mulroney and Janel Parrish; Netflix’s Falling Inn Love, starring Christina Milian and Adam Demos; Disney Channel/Disney+’s Halloween-themed Under Wraps; Candy Coated Christmas for Food Network/Discovery+; #FBF, a young adult indie starring Ashley Judd; and the Spanish language movie Operación Feliz Navidad for HBO Max in Latin America.