Stewart Till has launched an ambitious production, financing and distribution company modelled after PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (PFE), the erstwhile Euro major where he was head of international activities.
Montreal-based pension fund CDP Capital Communications and Los Angeles-based Mosaic Media will provide equity financing, although the financing of the first projects will be supported by significant bank lending from the Union Bank of California.
Echoing PFE, the operation is built around production operations: Charles Roven's production company Atlas Entertainment and Eric Gold and Jimmy Miller's Gold/Miller Company, both subsidiaries of Mosaic Media, will have production deals with the company. The as yet unnamed company is to distribute its own films in major international territories, following the PFE model of setting up distribution gradually on territory-by-territory basis.
Till will oversee distribution activities outside North America and be the main executive for greenlighting decisions.
"I hope the industry sees this as an exciting move," he told Screendaily. "There is a huge gap in the market place for this sort of company. The view is that PolyGram has been sorely missed. Other companies have not replaced it. This is a company that will make films out of America and Europe and that will emphasise international distribution."
The London and Los Angeles-based venture aims to make up to six films in the first year, expanding its output to up to 40 titles in the first five years, with an estimated total production and distribution spend of more than $2 billion.
"This investment is consistent with our strategy to combine content and distribution," said Henry Winterstern, managing partner of CDP Capital Entertainment. "We also feel that the international markets in this environment are poised for growth."
While the bulk of the production spend is likely to be on US-produced fare, Till promised that the company would be aggressive in the UK and the rest of Europe. Films will range from big budget event movies to lower budget niche-driven fare.
Till, who will act as chief executive officer and president of the new venture, envisages having two distribution companies, owned and operated by the new company, up and running by the end of the first year. He has targeted major European markets including the UK, Germany, France and Italy, along with Australia, as the first markets for own-distribution. Sales to remaining international territories will be handled in-house.
The company falls outside Mosaic's current production and financing arrangement with MGM and negotiations are taking place with other US distributors. In contrast to PFE, the operation will not enter the US distribution arena itself. "It is too expensive and too difficult," Till said.
The venture aims to strike further production deals with US and international producers. Roven, whose credits include Three Kings, Rollerball and the upcoming Scooby-Doo, as well as PFE titles such as 12 Monkeys, is to contribute two or three films to the annual slate. "This new company provides a formidable opportunity to work with our partners in accelerating our motion picture production output and influencing the way it is distributed," he said.