Ballantyne Strong Launches Strong Studios to Develop, Produce & Distribute Original Films and Series
New Studio Launches with Two Greenlit Series Through Distribution Agreement with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment’s Screen Media.
Ballantyne Strong, Inc. (NYSE American: BTN) (the “Company” or “Ballantyne”), announced today the launch of Strong Studios, which will operate as part of the Company’s Strong Entertainment division.
The Company also announced it has appointed David Ozer as President of Strong Studios. Mr. Ozer was formerly CEO of Landmark Studio Group, a division of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc (Nasdaq: CSSE).
Strong Studios, which will be based in New York, will develop and produce original feature films and television series, as well as acquire third party rights to content for global multi-platform distribution. The new studio launches with an IP slate acquisition and an initial distribution agreement with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment’s Screen Media. Under terms of the deal, two new scripted series, Safehaven and Flagrant, have been officially greenlit for production this year. Screen Media will distribute both series, with their streaming services Crackle, Popcornflix, and Chicken Soup for the Soul having first rights to premiere.
Safehaven, is a supernatural horror series based on the graphic novel about a female comic book artist whose drawings come alive to haunt her. Safehaven is produced by James Seale (Throttle), Kevin Duncan (Juncture) and Michael Bay’s 451 Media. Production is anticipated to begin in Canada mid-2022.
Flagrant, is an original dramedy series in partnership with actor and comedian, Michael Rapaport (Atypical, White Famous, Public Morals, Justified). Rapaport will appear in and executive produce Flagrant. Screenwriter Peter Hoare (Standing Up, Falling Down, Down Under Cover), and actor, broadcaster, stand-up comedian, and writer Pete Correale (The Pete and Sebastian Show on SiriusXM and Kevin Can Wait) will serve as co-writers and showrunners. Production is anticipated to begin mid-2022.
Additional projects shepherded by Ozer at Landmark Studio Group to now be developed and produced by Strong Studios as part of the content acquisition deal include Shadows in the Vineyard, starring Judith Light and Noah Wyle; the drama series, Heartbeat, co-created by legendary DJ couple Kiss and M.O.S.; the horror series MidNightMares, and more.
“The launch of Strong Studios is a natural but also potentially transformative next step for our entertainment business,” commented Mark Roberson, Chief Executive Officer of Ballantyne Strong. “Going forward, we will deliver not only the industry’s best movie screens and technical services, but also feature films and series for media platforms around the world. Strong Studios will have a head start with two pre-sold and greenlit series ready to start production right away. We plan to employ a disciplined and conservative approach to development of new projects, utilizing co-production and pre-licensing to limit financial exposure while building a content library with high potential for commercial success. We welcome David and his team and look forward to working with them to grow the business into a leading media studio with top original content.”
“With the growing worldwide demand for content and the acceleration of new streaming services, the environment is ripe for Strong Studios to thrive,” said David Ozer. “With the IP acquisition of a robust slate of content and distribution deal with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, we are able to hit the ground running with two series ready to head into production, while we begin developing our own pipeline of original IP. I am thrilled with the opportunity to launch Strong Studios and further expand Ballantyne Strong’s position in the global media marketplace.”
“We congratulate Strong Studios on this new venture and are excited to be able to continue to work with David Ozer and distribute their pipeline of exciting programming,” said William J. Rouhana Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment.
Prior to joining Strong Studios, Ozer served from 2018 - 2022 as CEO of Landmark Studio Group, overseeing the production and development of a slate of projects, including Willy’s Wonderland, starring Nicolas Cage; and Trigger Point, directed by Brad Turner and starring Barry Pepper; as well as Safehaven, Flagrant, Shadows in the Vineyard, Heartbeat, MidNightMares and others. From 2013 - 2018, he served as Founding President of IDW Entertainment, where he oversaw the independent mini-studio’s overall operations and focused on developing, producing, and distributing content that appeals to a broad global audience. Ozer is credited with the independent mini-studio’s expansion, and the success of its two most prominent series, overseeing the development and production of three seasons of Wynonna Earp for Syfy, and two seasons of Dirk Gently for BBC America. He also oversaw the development of Locke & Key and V-Wars for Netflix. Ozer has also held executive level positions at multinational media corporations, including executive vice president of television at Starz Media; senior vice president of domestic television at RHI Entertainment; head of worldwide distribution at Sonar; senior vice president of sales at DIC Entertainment and vice president of sales at Sony Pictures Television.
About Ballantyne Strong, Inc. Ballantyne Strong, Inc. is a diversified holding company with operations and holdings across a broad range of industries. Ballantyne’s Strong Entertainment segment currently includes one of the largest premium screen suppliers in the United States and also provides technical support services and other related products and services to the cinema exhibition industry, theme parks and other entertainment-related markets. Ballantyne holds a $13 million preferred stake along with Google Ventures in privately held Firefly Systems, Inc., which is rolling out a digital mobile advertising network on rideshare and taxi fleets. Finally, Ballantyne holds a 9% ownership position in GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSX: GFP), a forest-first business focused on sustainable forest management and lumber production, and an 18% ownership position in FG Financial Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: FGF), a reinsurance and investment management holding company focused on opportunistic collateralized and loss capped reinsurance, while allocating capital to SPAC and SPAC sponsor-related businesses.