An investment consortium headed by leading lights in the UK film, music, publishing and advertising sectors has acquired classic British horror and genre franchise Hammer Film Productions.
The group aims to boost sales on Hammer's library - which encompasses 179 feature films including The Curse Of Frankenstein and Dracula - plus exploit its potential for merchandising, TV spin-offs and feature remakes.
The investors include specialists across areas that the company aims to exploit, including former Warner Music UK chairman Rob Dickins, now chief executive of record label Instant Karma, and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising co-founder Charles Saatchi. Also on board are Neil Mendoza, chief executive of the UK's Forward Publishing and director of Brilliant Books, and William Sieghart, chairman of Forward Publishing and Brilliant Books.
The group also includes British Film Commission chairman Larry Chrisfield, a leading authority on entertainment tax and former head of the UK Entertainment & Media Group of Ernst & Young.
Terry Ilott and Peter Naish, partners in film management consultancy Bridge Media, will run the company. Bridge co-ordinated the acquisition from majority shareholder Roy Skeggs, who will remain as a consultant to the company with Graham Skeggs.
Along with the consortium's cash investment, the company has negotiated a credit facility with Barclays Bank. Ilott said that Hammer is already in talks with broadcasters about a TV series and has interest from US studios, mini-majors and UK companies. Other Hammer horror titles include The Mummy and The Curse Of The Werewolf, while its films from other genres include The Quatermass Experiment and One Million Years BC.
'As a genre, [horror] is really attractive to an investor,' Ilott said, highlighting the current surge of interest in horror with box office successes such as the Scream franchise and The Blair Witch Project. Scream 3 took an estimated $35m this weekend in the US.
Ilott added: 'There is a junior side in horror: the Dracula toy in the cereal packet to go with the magazines and books. And there is the buff who is more interested in the frightening, hand-held horror of Blair Witch. We can work with good names; a lot of directors are very interested in horror.'
Ilott aims to work with a third-party sales outfit and outside producers, although Hammer may eventually bring development and sales in-house.
Chrisfield, who will chair the company, said: 'Hammer is the strongest name in horror. We have brought together an exceptional group of individuals who believe that, in a fast-growing but volatile business such as entertainment, a strong brand in a perennially popular genre has enormous potential.'
Legal advisers in this week's deal were Paisner & Co for the investment consortium, Denton Hall for the vendors and Howard Kennedy for Barclays Bank. In addition, Forsters separately advised certain investors.