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How David Ellison built skydance into Hollywood’s smart bet


The equity deal with RedBird and CJ Entertainment valued Skydance at around $ 2.3 billion. At its current rate of growth – sales this year are expected to grow more than 40 percent year over year, the company said – skydance could be worth $ 5 billion or more in a few years. Mr. Ellison would most likely seek a sale or an IPO at this point.

Skydance could quickly become an acquisition target. With Amazon’s $ 8.45 billion purchase of MGM, content engines with access to established intellectual property, including skydancing, are hot prospects. Even if Skydance parted ways with Paramount next year, the expiring deal will give Skydance an incredible advantage: the continued right to invest in the Paramount franchises in which Skydance is already involved. “Star Trek.” “Impossible mission.” “Jack Ryan.” “GI Joe.” “Top Gun.”

Comcast, which needs to bolster its streaming service Peacock, could be a buyer. So could Apple, which was considering adding MGM. This spring, Skydance received feelers from a special purpose vehicle, SPAC for short, under the direction of Kevin A. Mayer, the former streaming boss at Disney.

“It’s true that we’ve had some interesting conversations lately, but our growth curve is still significant and if we continue to work hard and remain adaptable it should give us many choices in the future,” said Ellison, sounding more like an MBA -A graduate as a budding entertainment tycoon.

Skydance has far-reaching expansion plans. Amy Hennig, former senior creative executive at Electronic Arts, is building a video games division. Another department focuses on virtual reality content. Mr. Ellison recently hired Luis Fernández, a 20-year-old Disney veteran, to start a consumer goods business. But the future of skydance rests on scripted content and the degree to which pay-crap movie and television franchises can get it off all of the stuff, as “The Old Guard” apparently did.

Some people in Hollywood remain skeptical that skydancing has the creative expertise to pull it off. Mr. Ellison and his team excelled at putting together projects (29 films and television series sold to streaming services in two years). But the execution – quality – was inconsistent. And quality matters: Skydance’s action comedy “6 Underground,” an action comedy directed by Michael Bay, drew 83 million Netflix accounts in late 2019, but the film also received less than great reviews which diminished interest from Netflix a sequel.

A stream of well-reviewed original hits would force Hollywood to finally take Mr. Ellison seriously as a creative force.

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