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Lions Gate Boosts Holdings with Artisan Purchase

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. has agreed to acquire Artisan Entertainment Inc. for $160 million cash, plus the assumption of $40 million in debt, thus creating a company with more than 8,000 entertainment titles.

A Lions Gate spokesman said the acquisition includes the assumption of about $40 million in debt, putting the total value of the deal at slightly above $200 million, plus performance-based compensation.

The deal for Artisan, of Santa Monica, California, comes after an extensive five-month auction, which attracted interest from suitors r Marvel Enterprises Inc., Miramax Films and a team led by ex-USA Films chairman Scott Greenstein and buyout firm Thomas H. Lee Co.

"We enter 2004 with our strongest theatrical slate ever with franchise properties like DIRTY DANCING: HAVANA NIGHTS (co-produced with Miramax Films) and Marvel's incredible comic book legend THE PUNISHER," said Artisan chief exec Amir in a prepared statement.

The proposed acquisition of Artisan is expected to close by the end of the year. It is subject to customary closing conditions, including antitrust regulatory approvals.

Under the agreement, Artisan shareholders may receive additional cash based on the performance of certain films as well as other contingent compensation.

Vancouver-based Lions Gate's films include MONSTER'S BALL and GODS AND MONSTERS.

Artisan's Family Home Entertainment division recently announced that it will be releasing the first computer-animated POPEYE feature, POPEYE THE SAILOR MAN (to be animated by Mainframe) on DVD on Oct. 1, 2004. AFHE represents one of the home entertainment industry's pre-eminent children's and family franchises with a roster that contains some of the most widely-recognized brands in the marketplace, including BARBIE, CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG, CARE BEARS, RESCUE HEROES, HOT WHEELS and the VEGGIE TALES MOVIE.