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Ex-Disney, UPN, MGM, Artisan Execs Form First Family Entertainment

Dean Valentine, former UPN president/ceo and president of Walt Disney Television, has partnered with prominent entertainment execs Richard Cohen and Nicolas Van Dyk to form First Family Entertainment in Los Angeles. The new company will develop and produce niche-oriented, direct-to-DVD/video programming for family audiences. The new venture already has inked a home video distribution deal with MGM.

Valentine and David Bishop, president/coo of MGM Home Entertainment, have announced that First Family and MGM have entered into an exclusive, multi-year, multi-platform worldwide distribution agreement giving MGM Home Ent. exclusive domestic and international distribution rights for all First Family long-form productions. First Family aims to produce four to five titles per year, targeted to the family market, tapping into niches such as African-American and Hispanic markets. The agreement also includes a first-look deal with MGM for all of First Familys television and feature projects.

The focus will be primarily on live-action content with budgets of $2 million to $3 million each. Cohen and Van Dyk will serve as partners in First Family, Valentine as senior partner.

The phenomenal growth of the home-entertainment market and a shortage of quality G-rated films have created a unique opportunity, especially in some of the niche markets, Valentine said. It is our intention to fill this need. We are delighted to be in business with MGM Home Ent. on the exciting launch of our company. MGMs successful track record and strong reach to consumers throughout the world will provide First Familys titles with the broadest distribution possible.

The need for quality family entertainment on DVD continues to grow at a rapid pace, said Bishop. Given this growth, I am confident that the pioneers behind First Family Entertainment will produce films ideal for MGM to bring to the family home-video marketplace.

While heading UPN, Valentine was responsible for the television networks overall administration and programming distribution, affiliate relations, marketing, advertising, ad sales and research. Under Valentines tenure, UPN transformed into a destination for young viewers seeking alternative programming, including such shows as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, DILBERT, ENTERPRISE and WWF SMACKDOWN!, as well as shows targeting African-American and Hispanic audiences.

Prior to UPN, he was president of Walt Disney Television and Walt Disney Television Animation where he was responsible for all creative and business areas, including the development and production of television series, specials and telefilms produced by Walt Disney Television, WDTA and Touchstone Television for network, syndication, basic cable and pay-TV markets. During his tenure, Valentine oversaw creation and production of such top-rated shows as HOME IMPROVEMENT and ELLEN, and was involved with long-running hits THE GOLDEN GIRLS, Blossom and EMPTY NEST.

Additionally, Valentine oversaw development and production of an ambitious slate of original telefilms and event movies for ABCs revived THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY, as well as the Disney Video Premiere line of direct-to-video sequels to Disney animated theatrical features. These projects included the first full-length Winnie the Pooh feature, POOHS GRAND ADVENTURE: THE SEARCH FOR CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, and projects such as BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS, THE LION KING II: SIMBAS PRIDE, POCAHONTAS: JOURNEY TO A NEW WORLD, AN EXTREMELY GOOFY MOVIE, THE LITTLE MERMAID II: RETURN TO THE SEA, LADY & THE TRAMP II: SCAMPS ADVENTURE and HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME II.

Cohen served as president of Tremaine Assoc., an entertainment media consultancy with such clients as DVD Station and Edgestream Technology. Before that, he was gm of RealNetworks consumer division. From 1994 to 2000, Cohen was president of MGM Home Ent. and Consumer Products, where he was responsible for all of the studios interests involving film, television and interactive products on DVD, home video and emerging formats. Prior to that, he was evp of Buena Vista Home Video, Worldwide, responsible for marketing, sales and distribution of all Disney, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures home-entertainment products worldwide, representing $1.5 billion in annual revenues. He joined Disney in 1986 as vp, International Home Video and Pay Television, overseeing Disneys home-entertainment expansion across the globe, including the United Kingdom, Asia and Europe.

Van Dyk most recently was evp and chief strategic officer of Artisan Ent., where he oversaw all finance and business-development activity, including acquisitions, treasury and strategic investments. While there, he co-managed Artisans IPO, structured and co-managed its $160 million film-financing facility, oversaw acquisition efforts and negotiated Artisans $40 million home-entertainment distribution agreement with Fox. Shortly after joining Artisan in 1997, he was named vp of corporate development, and, in 2000, was promoted to evp. Between 1995 and 1997, he was manager, corporate strategic planning and development, at the Walt Disney Co. Prior to that, Van Dyk was associate consultant with The LEK Partnership.

MGM Home Ent., a unit of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., controls the home video, DVD and video-on-demand rights to the worlds largest library of modern films. In 2003, the company began signing strategic partnerships with prestigious family entertainment companies and launched a new MGM Kids branding initiative for pre-school-aged products. The company manages worldwide home video, DVD and video-on-demand distribution rights to United Artists and current Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer theatrical releases, as well as titles from the Orion, Goldwyn and PolyGram libraries, totaling about 4,000 films. For more information about MGM Home Entertainment, its products, and services, go to www.mgmhomevideo.com.

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