Los Angeles-based First Look Studios has closed a three-year $80m creditfacility with Merrill Lynch as it continues its push to become a majorvertically integrated entertainment company.

Prentice Capital Management, the New York-based hedge fund thathas hitherto provided financial support, will convert its initial investment inFirst Look Studios from convertible debt to equity.

"This facility is an important component of our plan toestablish First Look Studios as a leading independent movie studio, comprising production,acquisition and distribution," First Look Studios chief executive officerHenry Winterstern said.

"It provides financial resources and flexibility thatcomplement our existing support from Prentice Capital Management. We lookforward to continuing to grow our company in the coming months and years."

Winterstern is determined to transform the company into a majorfilm studio with strong home entertainment, foreign sales divisions, library,and television syndication divisions.

Since his arrival last year he has corralled First Look Media,Capital Entertainment, DEJ Productions and Ventura Distribution under the FirstLook Studios banner.

The company recently released John Hillcoat's critically acclaimedwestern The Proposition,and Larry Clark's Wassup Rockers is scheduled to go on limited release on Jun 23.

The distribution pipeline includes Gregg Araki's comedy SmileyFace starring AnnaFaris, and Sundance pick-up A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, which stars Robert Downey Jr andRosario Dawson.

In development are a Larry Clark project about the fight clubscene and dark thriller The Womb from Murderball director Dana Adam Shapiro. American Crime Film (working title) starring Catherine Keenerand Ellen Page is in pre-production.