* Lions Gate to distribute films for Relativity Media
* Deal comes as Lions Gate defends against Icahn advances
* Companies previously collaborated on “3:10 to Yuma”
LOS ANGELES, April 27 (Reuters) - Film and television studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp LGF.N said on Monday it reached a U.S. distribution deal for up to five movies a year from producer Relativity Media, the company behind the recent release “Fighting.”
The partnership comes as Lions Gate seeks to fend off advances by financier Carl Icahn, who has threatened to wage a proxy war and take control of the studio, and has criticized its purchase of the TV Guide cable channel.
The first movie to be released under the new agreement will be “Brothers,” a drama due later this year from Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan starring Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman. The film is about two brothers in love with the same woman.
Future movies under the deal include thriller “Season of the Witch” and comedy “The Spy Next Door,” which are both in post-production, Lions Gate said.
Lions Gate and Relativity Media previously collaborated on the 2007 western film “3:10 to Yuma” and 2008 movies “The Bank Job” and “The Forbidden Kingdom.”
Relativity Media’s release “Fighting,” starring Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard, opened on Friday and made $11.4 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices, placing No. 3 on movie charts after No. 1 “Obsessed” and No. 2 “17 Again.”
Last week Icahn, who holds a 14.5 percent stake in Lions Gate, extended to May 1 the expiration date of his bid to acquire the studio’s $316 million of public debt after attracting only $8 million of Lions Gate notes.
He made the move because earlier Lions Gate reached a deal with two debtholders to swap some of the company’s convertible notes for new debt, thereby keeping them out of Icahn’s hands.
Lions Gate also is seeking to lure equity partners for its purchase of the TV Guide Channel, thereby reducing the company’s financial liability and quieting Icahn’s criticism of its $255 million deal to acquire the TV Guide Channel.
Lions Gate shares were down 12 cents, or 2.4 percent, at $4.84 at the close of trading on Monday. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Steve Orlofsky)