Magazine article Variety

Feeding Indie Hunger

Magazine article Variety

Feeding Indie Hunger

Article excerpt

With the worldwide success of "The Hunger Games" still ringing as a clarion to the viability of independently financed films, Lionsgate's $412.5 million deal to buy Summit Entertainment is echoing on the Croisette as the Cannes Film Festival and market opens, with a burst of new sales-financing companies joining an already growing sector.

Initial reaction to the deal focused on the merged Lionsgate being able to take better advantage of the "Twilight" and "Hunger Games" franchises, long-term stability and the firepower to compete effectively with the Big Six studios. But as global "Games" grosses have mounted - now at well over $600 million - others are getting in on the act.

Notably, on May 1, former Lionsgate motion picture group president Joe Drake and former Mandate Pictures president Nathan Kahane launched Good Universe as a full-service film financing, production and global sales company; and David Garrett, Summit co-founder and former prexy of international, joined forces with Germany's Constantin Film to launch sales and financing entity Mister Smith Entertainment.

There were already other new companies in the mix: a revitalized eOne sales operation and Radiant Films. And a few days before Lionsgate completed the Summit deal on Jan. 13, well-known foreign sales exec Lisa Wilson and film financier Myles Nestel announced the market - especially given the scope of "Hunger Games'" success.

"Lionsgate and Summit is a natural fit for both of them," Nestel says. "It really sets the stage for a fluid, liquid market. Capitol markets are looking at the indie financing space much more seriously."

The Lionsgate deal, he points out, took place five years after Summit remade itself from a sales-production company into a mini-major with domestic distribution - and then succeeded largely due to the "Twilight" franchise.

While there are a lot of institutional investors and high-net worth individuals cautiously coming back into the film business, he adds, they are always told they'll recoup in five years, and with Summit, they did. "You always like to hear success stories, because it benefits the perception of the industry," Nestel says.

On the international sales side, Lionsgate continues it transformation: Helen Lee Kim will step down at the end of the year, part of a reorganization of its overseas arm that puts studio co-chair Patrick Wachsberger in charge. Kim continues to rep international sales for the studio at Cannes.

Garrett, who had forged a strong bond with Constantin at Summit, will continue his relationship with the Germangiant by handling select Englishlanguage Constantin product, as well as other projects. This year, the company will shop sci-fi fantasy pic "The Mortal Instruments," based on the books by Cassandra Clare, one of the projects that could feed post-"Hunger Games" demand.

Several other familiar players are coming to Cannes waving new banners.

Panorama Media, a new production, financing and international sales entity announced in late April with backing from Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures, will be run by Marc Butan and Kimberly Fox, the former Inferno exec who will serve as head of international sales.

Panorama will launch at Cannes with a slate of films that includes Kathryn Bigelow's yet to be titled Navy Seal pic, Spike Jonze's unütled next project and Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," with Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Charming Tatum slated to star. …

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