Marking the true end of an era, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will cease to be a stand-alone studio this year once its purchase by a Sony-led consortium is completed.

(The Hollywood Reporter) -- Marking the true end of an era, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will cease to be a stand-alone studio this year once its purchase by a Sony-led consortium is completed.

After years during which majority owner Kirk Kerkorian put the studio on and off the block -- and months of uncertainty during which both Sony and Time Warner circled the studio -- CEO Alex Yemenidjian and COO Chris McGurk closed out a year in which MGM did not leave a major impact at the box office.

But, ironically, they managed to put in place what they consider one of the strongest upcoming slates in recent studio history. Amid all the question marks about the company's future, the fact that MGM's staff remained focused on the product was an accomplishment in itself.

While MGM celebrated its history when the Cole Porter biopic "De-Lovely" played as the closing-night attraction at the Festival de Cannes, back in the United States, "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" established itself as an urban hit.

Chris McGurk"We had a great year," McGurk says. "We are handing over one of the strongest slates in memory. We have tripled the value of the library and home video. There have been some great innovations in ideas to using the library, and this has all been key to the transaction."

McGurk considers the 2004 slate's success ratio far greater than the studio initially calculated in devising its strategy of producing a slate of high-concept, low-budget films.

"We had a mixed bag of success," McGurk says. "We have had some great results despite all of the distraction. Everybody has been focused on producing, despite the transaction, because everyone wants to go out of here on the highest note possible before the lights go out."

Despite the uncertainty, MGM continued to sign new housekeeping deals, most notably with producer Bob Simonds, who oversaw the upcoming "Pink Panther" movie starring Steve Martin. The company also signed a first-look deal with Jennifer Klein's Apartment 3B Productions as well as pacts with AG Productions, the Jim Henson Co. and Pense Productions.

Going forward, it is expected that Sony Pictures Entertainment will distribute MGM's film and television content as well as co-finance and produce new films with MGM.

In addition, SPE has agreed, along with its equity partners and deal partner Comcast, on a broad programming and distribution arrangement that will allow for the distribution of SPE and MGM content on Comcast's video-on-demand platform and for the creation of a joint venture, establishing new cable channels featuring SPE and MGM product.

Says McGurk, "I think that we have the best group of employees in the business and that they have ensured that we are going out in an environment of success. I am very proud of what we have achieved. It's very emotional to watch these people work away so hard before we all say goodbye."

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