Germany's Intertainment has stepped up to fully finance a $1bn slate of films being prepared by Oscar-winning producer Arnold Kopelson, who is poised to quit his production deal at 20th Century Fox.
Kopelson and his wife and producing partner Anne enjoyed huge commercial success with a prolific stream of pictures for Warner Bros including The Fugitive, Eraser, Outbreak, US Marshals, A Perfect Murder, The Devil's Advocate and Falling Down. Kopelson signed a five-year production deal with 20th Century Fox in late 1995 kicking off in Jan 1997 after the Warner deal expired.
But since they moved to Fox three and a half years ago, the Kopelsons haven't produced a single picture. They are currently in pre-production on Unfaithful, an Adrian Lyne film to star George Clooney, which was originally developed not by them, but by Fox 2000.
Under its five-year deal, Intertainment will fully finance a slate of 10-20 pictures with average budgets of $50m. It also gets an option to renew the arrangement for a further five years. "We've been working on this deal for about nine years [when Intertainment was founded]," said Intertainment co-chief Barry Baeres. "And ideally we look forward to working with Arnold for ten years."
The fine print of the Kopelson's departure from Fox has yet to be signed off. "We hope Arnold becomes available very soon," said Baeres. "For the moment Unfaithful is a Fox project."
Intertainment acquires world rights in all media from theatrical to Internet, video-on-demand, merchandising and soundtrack rights. With the Kopelson's studio deal set to end, Intertainment is now looking for a major studio to distribute the titles in North America. Other finance will come from international pre-sales and film funds.
The deal gives Intertainment a far higher degree of creative control than under its existing output arrangements with Franchise Pictures and Original Voices. "Intertainment receives approval rights for every phase of the film production process, starting right at the selection of each project," said Baeres.
The Kopelson slate is bound to have implications on the way that Intertainment does business. It currently has a string of output deals with national distributors and arrangements with Warner Bros and Fox for European theatrical and video and pay-TV rights. While the current partners may be favourites to win the business, they are not guaranteed the titles and the formalisation of a sales operation within Intertainment is a distinct possibility.
New media sales could also take Intertainment into arrangements with other partners. "We are talking to portals and to telecoms companies. We are able to offer European and, now, to some extent, worldwide scenarios. With studio distribution as an awareness creating platform we are an attractive proposition," said Baeres.
Intertainment recently tapped Stephen Brown, former president of production at the Kopelsons' Kopelson Entertainment, to head up its new Los Angeles-based US film arm. He is in charge of creating a US film development, financing and production company and oversees Intertainment's interests in films in which it has an equity stake. He is also responsible for bringing in additional films intended to be funded through co-financing arrangements with the studios.
Kopelson's other film credits include 1986 Oscar winner Platoon and worldwide smash Seven for New Line Cinema. Baeres described him as "one of the most prolific and commercially successful producers of our time. His last ten films earned more than $2bn worldwide from theatrical exploitation alone."