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Lions Gate to Buy Artisan for $160 Million, Plus Debt

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Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. said on Monday it had agreed to buy fellow independent film producer and distributor Artisan Entertainment, a deal that was rumored to be in the works for several weeks.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Lions Gate, which is run largely from Los Angeles, said it would pay $160 million in cash and assume New York-based Artisan's debt.

Lions Gate, whose films have ranged from the critically acclaimed "Monster's Ball" to low budget horror movies such as "Cabin Fever," said the deal is expected to be completed by the end of 2003.

It said the owners of closely held Artisan may receive additional cash based on the performance of certain films.

Artisan is best known for distributing the hugely popular 1999 horror film "The Blair Witch Project." Its upcoming films include "The Punisher" with John Travolta, and "Havana Nights: Dirty Dancing 2," both due out next year.

Prior to being halted for the news, Lions Gate shares were up 18 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $3.45 on the American Stock Exchange on volume of about 392,000. The stock briefly touched C$3.74, its highest level since April, 2000.

In Toronto, the stock rose 43 Canadian cents, or 10 percent, to C$4.68 with more than 124,000 shares traded.

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