A new multi-territory German-backed buyer has emerged in New Legend Media AG, a privately held production and distribution outfit founded from the merger of Munich-based ACC Entertainment and LA-based Legend Entertainment.
Two German venture capital companies - Hamburg-based GBK Beteiligungen and Munich-based CEA - have joined the consortium of private investors backing New Legend. Other shareholders include Tom Berry of Legend, Al Munteanu and Peter Popp of ACC and Canadian production/distribution group Motion International.
As well as in-house production through LA-based New Legend Media Inc, New Legend Media AG plans to contribute 25% of film budgets in return for distribution rights in Italy, Germany and Spain. The company has already closed a deal with LA-based Total Film Group to acquire those territories on Christine Lahti's feature directorial debut My First Mister starring Albert Brooks and Leelee Sobieski. Paramount Classics has domestic rights to the film through a two picture distribution deal with Total which encompasses My First Mister and Bruce Beresford's Bride Of The Wind, the story of Gustav Mahler's wife Alma Mahler.
New Legend has also acquired Italy, Germany and Spain on Say Nothing, an upcoming thriller to be directed by Arthur Hiller for Ray Stark's Rastar.
At this stage, New Legend is a rights-broker; it is undecided how the films will be distributed in the three European territories.
Meanwhile New Legend Media Inc's first two productions, both scheduled to start shooting this summer, are Ties That Bind, a suspense thriller to shoot in western Canada starring Andy Garcia and being directed by Australia's Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper). Written by Chris Murphey and Miguel Tejada-Flores, it is the story of a psychologist matching wits with a teenage patient with a gruesome past.
Who You Know is a thriller set to feature Benicio Del Toro as a writer investigating the murder of a girl he met at a party. Chris Menaul (Prime Suspect) will direct. Henry Bean wrote the screenplay; shooting is set to start in Los Angeles in August.
Both films - budgeted under $20m each - will be sold internationally outside New Legend's territories by Peter Elson's Global Cinema Group; New Legend will handle the domestic sales itself.
New Legend also has a first look deal with former production executives turned producers J Paul Higgins and Kathryn Sommer Parry.
The management board of New Legend Media AG is comprised of Munteanu, Berry and Popp. Berry and Munteanu are the new company's co-CEOs, with Berry heading up development and production activities and Munteanu overseeing acquisitions and European distribution. Popp is head of operations.
ACC was formed in 1994 through the merger of ACC Entertainment Filmproduction and The Entertainment Council. It boarded its first theatrical film - UK comedy Shooting Fish starring Stuart Townsend and Kate Beckinsale in 1997 and had distribution rights in German-speaking Europe in collaboration with PolyGram Filmed Entertainment. ACC was also a partner on Hart Sharp Entertainment's thriller Dark Harbor starring Alan Rickman, Polly Walker and Norman Reedus. Hart Sharp has since produced Boys Don't Cry and Sundance co-winner You Can Count On Me.
ACC already had a close relationship with Legend to co-produce ten pictures. Legend was founded in 1998 as an LA-based production joint venture between Berry and Canada's Coscient Group which was renamed Motion International. Berry formerly ran Allegro Films, with credits including Little Men (1998), Stranger In The House (1997), The Assignment (1997) and Screamers (1996). The last two were directed by Christian Duguay, currently in post on Warner/Franchise summer release The Art Of War starring Wesley Snipes.
Berry will run New Legend Media Inc, the production arm of the company, in Los Angeles. Lawrence Goebel, former president of Image Organization, is executive vice president. Alex Campbell is senior vice president, production.