HBO HF TV: Matt Damon Is A Red Herring

hbo.jpgBrian Koppelman and David Levien, the duo that brought us “Ocean’s 13” and “Rounders” have signed on to write “Alpha Cats,” HBO’s new show about hedge funds. So “AC” will either be a good series with frequent guest appearances by Matt Damon or a really boring one that looks and sounds exactly like its predecessors (though blissfully Julia Roberts-free) with frequent guest appearances by Matt Damon. Doug Ellin, executive producer, said he’s aiming for the show to be out next summer with the fifth season of “Entourage,” though “nothing is set in stone,” so don’t cancel your HBO just yet, even if we’re all on the same page vis-à-vis “Entourage” being off to a horrible start (save for the Anthony Michael Hall balcony brilliance).
‘Entourage’ Producers Hire ‘Ocean’s 13′ Writers for HBO Hedge Fund Series [TV Week]

  • 25 Jun 2007 at 11:10 AM
  • Hollywood

Evan Almighty Still Has 36 More Days to Flood the Mainstream

evan-almighty-monkeys.jpg Hollywood has had a decent summer so far, amidst sequel saturation. Fortunately for the movie biz, the sequel influx has been void of any huge flops, although offerings have underperformed slightly.
Although the industry is still in denial about the margin squeeze created by the astronomical budgets of this round of sequels, without any major hitches, many insiders were still optimistic that Hollywood could have a record-breaking $4bn summer. That is until the cruel box-office foiling Deus Ex Machina of Evan Almighty flooded theaters last weekend.
Evan Almighty is the first real major studio flop of the summer. The Universal Pictures release cost over $175mm to make and brought in just $32mm in its opening weekend. Who would have thought that a film in which the US is subject to a Biblical style flood in which the majority of jokes consist of wacky CGI animal high jinks would fail?
The “Almighty” franchise’s first installment (Hurricane Katrina, according to Pat Robertson), Bruce Almighty, cost $84 but made $68mm on opening weekend and $242mm in domestic revenue at run’s end.
Universal can at least boast the one success of the summer with Knocked Up (containing a premise about as realistic as Evan Almighty), which cost less than $30 to make and has made $109mm in a month.
So far in 2007, Hollywood box-office revenue is up 3.5% on flat theater attendance, causing analysts to lower estimates of that record-breaking $4bn summer.
Third Time’s No Charm For Summer Blockbusters [Wall Street Journal]

  • 26 Apr 2007 at 11:48 AM
  • Hollywood

The Private Equity Grindhouse

grindhouse.jpg The Weinsteins are starting a $285mm film fund with an Asian fetish. Along with $15mm of Weinstein blood money (every time Uma Thurman kills a Japanese teenager we get $50 bucks!), Goldman is set to raise $245mm in debt and $25mm in equity for the fund. The goal of the fund is to back 31 Asian-themed releases in the next six years, and it’s identified up and comers like Jackie Chan to be in some of these movies.
The Weinsteins, never ones to back away in the face of certain defeat (a quality they liken to the Spartans, a huge market success), are completely ignoring domestic box-office trends. From Bloomberg:

The five films distributed by Weinstein Co. this year, including “Grindhouse,” a thriller about a stalker from directors Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, have taken in $21 million, compared with $133.4 million from nine releases during the same period in 2006, according to Box Office Mojo.

The upside: growth in the Asian film industry. The film industry is expecting 5% annual growth over the next 3 years, with Asia as a key driver in a market expected to generate over $100bn by 2010.
Weinsteins Plan $285 Million Film Fund for Asia, Hire Goldman – [Bloomberg]

  • 20 Apr 2007 at 10:30 AM
  • Hollywood

Merrill at Hollywood Summit

bully for bugs.jpg Merrill Lynch has teamed with former VC of Paramount Robert Friedman and Summit Entertainment to form Summit Entertainment LLC. The $1bn entity hopes to finance and distribute 12 feature films per year, making it the first major distribution focused PE entity in Hollywood.
Merrill has been trying to fund anything that walks in Hollywood these days, including production companies Paramount, Marvel, Montecito and Cold Spring Pictures. Merrill will also most likely have to pony up millions to Tom Cruise’s United Artists because it couldn’t find anyone batty enough to go in with Cruise on the equity portion of a $500mm financing package.
Merrill Goes for Summit in Hollywood – [DealBook]

IMAX: Tonight They Dine In Hell?

godkingmustdie.jpgThe proposition that Wall Street and hedge fund financial know-how can save the faltering movie business is at the very least being challenged by the faltering fortunes of IMAX, which is controlled by its two largest shareholders, co-chief executives Rich Gelfond and Brad Wechsler. The two are former Drexel Burnham Lambert investment bankers who purchased Imax from its Canadian founders $85-million a dozen years ago. At the times they were partnered with a team of Wall Street investors, including Wasserstein Perella.
Now IMAX is facing an informal SEC inquiry, has been unable to file its financials as it reviews is revenue recognition practices and some observers are predicting that it is about to default on its debt covenants. Oh, and those big shot Wall Street investors have been fleeing the company. Wasserstein Perella long since got out of the business. Even Team Rich & Brad have sold down, reducing their stake to 7 and some odd percent from an initial position of 11%.
Team Brad & Rich are still talking a good game about IMAX but its starting to sound a bit, well, like the dialogue from the 300. How long until they have to say, “Tonight we dine in Hell?”
‘Red Flags’ at Imax [Edmonton Journal]

hollywood.JPGFollowing in Hollywood hedge fund operator Benjamin Waisbren and Co.’s (possibly failed) footsteps, Citigroup will be funding at least 45 movies over the next five years, in conjunction with the privately held Relativity Media. Ryan Kavanaugh, an executive at Relativity Media, brokered the deal, and previously worked with Deutsche Bank to finance 18 movies to be made by Sony and Universal Studios over the next two years. No word on whether a $Honey movie-of-the-week will be included in the 45, but, for the most part, it can pretty much be assumed. (Gotta start making those trademark application fees earn their keep, you know?)

  • 03 Oct 2006 at 9:28 AM
  • Hollywood

Dresdner Closes $300 Fund For Paramount Pictures

paramount45.jpgIt’s another injection of high finance cash into Hollywood. Dresdner Kleinwort closed a $300 million fund to finance 30 films to be produced by Paramount and its children. The fund is being called Melrose 2, and the large number of films slated to be made is in part an attempt to diversify the investment—the idea is to make lots of smaller films, and look for a couple of big hits out of them.
It used to be film producers went to dentists and surgeons and other people with extra-money lying around who might be impressed by a proximity to Hollywood. Now the loose money is found in hedge funds, apparently. There’s lots of skepticism about just who is getting the worse end of this bargain—the investors who might just discover there isn’t much money left over in terms of profits once Hollywood accounting eats its way through the box office take or the movie studio people who will now have to answer to investors who might take a slightly more muscular approach to managing their film investments than traditional sources of Hollywood cash.
Paramount in $300m film deal with Dresdner [Financial Times]