A sense of relief came over the employees of Image Entertainment Inc. following the announcement that the company was being sold to a private investment firm. For 18 months the future of the company was in doubt, ever since rival distributor Lionsgate Entertainment attempted to acquire the company in the fall of 2005 that resulted in rejection by the Image board. Even after employees were told on March 30 that BTP Acquisition Co., LLC was buying the company for $132 million there remained the question of what position Lionsgate would take. Would the Santa Monica company increase their bid for shares in another effort to take over Image and its coveted library of 3,000 titles? Or would it let the process with BTP move along and sell its shares like any other shareholder? The answer came later that day when Lionsgate sold off its 19 percent share in Chatsworth-based Image. “It was a little bit of surprise to us but certainly a pleasant one,” said Image COO David Borshell. “The employees took that as a positive occurrence.” The acquisition by BTP is expected to close by July 31. The firm offered $4.40 per share in cash and assumes a replication advance in excess of $9 million and the repayment of approximately $24 million in debt. Film financier and producer David Bergstein heads BTP. He recently purchased U.K.-based Capitol Films, an international film distributor, and Thinkfilm, a North American film distributor. Borshell could not comment much on the sale because not much information was given out. When a proxy is filed with shareholders at the end of April, only then can there be talk about company structure, and employees and management under a new owner. Even after the Image board rejected the Lionsgate offer, the company remained open to sell as long as two goals were met the deal brought the highest value for the shareholders; and the new owner kept the company intact. “We certainly are anticipating that the bulk of the company will stay intact from a management perspective on down,” Borshell said. Founded in 1981 to distribute laserdiscs, Image transitioned to other media formats and built itself into a distributor, producer and independent licensee with more than 3,000 executive DVD titles and 200 exclusive CD titles bringing in revenues in excess of $100 million. Last year the company inked a deal with Relativity Media to release feature film titles on all home video and digital formats. The move into releasing feature films figured into Image’s recent agreement to have Sonopress LLC take over distribution of Image titles from its center in Wisconsin by the end of the third quarter. The agreement means the closure of Image’s distribution facility in Las Vegas. It makes sense for the company to have its distribution from a location centrally located in the country and closer to the bulk of retail outlets, Borshell said. The company releasing feature films had the potential to cause stress on the Las Vegas location and it could avoid those problems by switching to the larger Sonopress facility, Borshell said. Rehearsals on the Web A rehearsals.com branded channel will showcase emerging and unsigned artists following a deal between its parent CenterStaging Corp. and Joost. Rehearsals.com, based in Burbank, boosts its online presence through the agreement with Joost that gives exclusive backstage view of artists in free, unique streaming content. “Joost represents an amazing advancement in the future of online television,” said CenterStaging Executive Vice President Michael Sandoval. “Our content gives a unique perspective of artists at work on this extensive distribution channel and will give consumers exactly what they are looking for, in this new age of media content.” Staff Reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or at email@example.com .