Australian media scion James Packer is getting into the Brett Ratner business. The billionaire will personally back film development, production and finance company, RatPac Entertainment. Ratner and Packer are looking to produce and finance independent films and co-finance “blockbusters” with studio partners. Two projects have been identified to be co-financed, although details have yet to be disclosed. “We intend to build a major independent film company which not only has the ability to fully finance its films, but which also offers creative independence for its filmmakers,” Ratner said in a statement that was short on information. Packer is the chairman of Oz-based gaming and entertainment company Crown Limited. He is the son of the late Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer. In October, his Consolidated Media Holdings voted in favor of a $2.1B takeover bid by News Corp.
How Sony Pictures Answered Critics Going Into Thursday Investor Meeting With Cuts, Jeff Robinov Courtship, Blue Anchor Co-Fi
Oscar season is in full swing and is dominating attention, but the most important discussions taking place in town are being done with bankers in back rooms as heavyweight producers and co-financiers move around and will dramatically shape the future of studio event film slates for years to come. The players in the drama still to formalize landing places are Jeff Robinov and Graham King, Jerry Bruckheimer, John LaViolette and Joseph M. Singer’s Blue Anchor Entertainment. This after Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures left Warner Bros for Universal, and was replaced by Brett Ratner, James Packer and Steve Mnuchin’s RatPac Dune, which will co-finance the slates of Warner Bros going forward. Two of the next big moves seem to squarely involve Sony Pictures, whose heads Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal head into investor meetings on the Sony lot in Culver City on Thursday with some pending alliances that will greatly reshape their operations.
The above players will be dealing in billions of dollars of production financing. RatPac Dune’s Ratner, Packer and Mnuchin fell into a right-place-at-the-right time windfall just as its Warner Bros deal commenced, and got kissed into Gravity as its first film. That put the venture off to a flying start as the film crossed the $500 million worldwide gross mark. I hear that Tull and Legendary might well get that deal underway in high style by co-financing Universal’s surefire blockbuster Jurassic World, though studio insiders said I’m getting ahead of myself because there is not yet a shooting script to show Legendary. While the RatPac Dune deal covers Warner Bros’ full slate, Tull gets to cherry-pick the films Legendary will co-finance, and the deal calls for a big Universal commitment on films that Legendary generates. This deal was papered by Uni president Jimmy Horowitz and chased aggressively by NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke as well as Donna Langley.
BREAKING: Brett Ratner and James Packer’s RatPac Press entered into a joint venture to publish Ben Mezrich’s Seven Wonders through Running Press Publishers next spring. Deadline told you back in May that Ratner and Packer set the movie rights at Fox, back when the book was a proposal. It was the first deal Ratner and Packer made since forming their company. Written by Mezrich, whose books helped in form the films The Social Network and 21, weaves the Seven Wonders into an adventure tale they all hoped would lead to a book and movie trilogy, with the latter being produced by Beau Flynn and Ratner. Here’s the official release about the book deal:
Olga Kurylenko has been cast opposite Russell Crowe in The Water Diviner, which will be Crowe’s helming debut. The story, which takes place four years after the battle of Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I, centers on Australian farmer Connor (Crowe), who travels to Istanbul to discover the fate of his sons, reported missing in action. He forges a relationship with the beautiful Turkish woman (Kurylenko) who owns the hotel he stays in. Andrew Mason and Troy Lum of Hopscotch Features and Keith Rodger of Crowe’s Fear of God Films are producing the pic, written by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastassios. Its a RatPac Entertainment film and is executive produced by Brett Ratner and James Packer. Kurylenko, whose recent credits include Oblivion, Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder and Starz’s recently ended mob drama Magic City, just finished filming Vampire Academy and November Man opposite Pierce Brosnan. She will start work on Water Diviner when it begins shooting in Australia on December 2, then move on to Momentum opposite Vincent Cassel and Shea Whigham early next year. Kurylenko is repped by CAA and Tavistock Wood.
EXCLUSIVE: New Regency has become a co-financier on the untitled film that Cameron Crowe is directing for Sony Pictures, starring Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin and Bill Murray. Regency will share its 50% investment with RatPac, the company launched by James Packer and Brett Ratner that just recently teamed with Dune Entertainment for a $450 million slate financing deal with Warner Bros. That deal got off to a strong start as the studio brought them in on Gravity.
Crowe wrote the script and is producing the untitled film with Scott Rudin. They have been low key on the log line, but the film has romance and comedy and is said to in the spirit of past Crowe pics Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. The film will be released domestically by Sony Pictures, and Fox International will release it overseas. New Regency principal Arnon Milchan had a long history with Kerry Packer, which made for an easy match with his son, RatPac partner James Packer.
Brett Ratner took a few minutes away from directing Dwayne Johnson in the MGM/Paramount film Hercules: The Thracian Wars to talk about being in the center of a herculean $450 million slate financing deal that RatPac-Dune Entertainment finally closed with Warner Bros. It is an arrangement that will cover as many as 75 of the biggest films made by Warner Bros and New Line for the next few years.
Ratner tells me that this is a straight financing deal, but one that will allow and his RatPac-Dune partners James Packer and Steven Mnuchin to build library assets. It is just one piece of what could become a very interesting puzzle. Ratner said that Packer, son of the late media mogul Kerry Packer, got out of the media holdings that were his father’s preoccupation and instead has put his money in a number of ventures that include casinos in Macau. That whetted his appetite for investing in China’s fast-growing film business.
“Part of our strategy will be to expand into China, to co-finance Chinese movies and films that not only work around the world but Asia in particular,” Rather told me. “We are already developing some movies we feel will work in the Asian market.”
As Deadline reported in the summer, Warner Bros Pictures has found its replacement to fill the void left when Thomas Tull moved Legendary Pictures down the road to Universal. RatPac-Dune Entertainment has made a multi-year agreement to co-finance as many as 75 upcoming titles at up to $450 million. The announcement was made today by Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara and by Steven Mnuchin, Brett Ratner and James Packer of RatPac-Dune Entertainment, the film finance vehicle formed by Mnuchin and RatPac Entertainment to co-finance the Warner Bros Pictures slate.
The co-fi deal starts with the October 4 release Gravity, and the December 25 release Grudge Match. The studio laid off risk in the past with Village Roadshow Pictures and Legendary.
“We are very pleased to be entering into this relationship with RatPac-Dune Entertainment,” said Tsujihara. “This agreement gives us increased strength and flexibility in the motion picture division and an even greater ability to manage risk as we continue to produce high-quality filmed entertainment for the global audience. We look forward to working with their team as we move forward in this exciting new partnership with a truly great organization.”
As Deadline’s Nikki Finke reported on July 6, Legendary Entertainment has set up a new partnership with NBCUniversal. While nothing formal has been announced, sources say the multiyear film/television financial, distribution, marketing, and production deal will start in 2014. After various meetings over the past few months, the deal was negotiated primarily by Universal prez Jimmy Horowitz, Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Comcast No. 2 Steve Burke. With the split from Warner Bros now complete, Legendary and the studio still have to share a stage down at Comic-Con next week promoting Godzilla and Seventh Son. Legendary and WB also have the Guillermo del Toro-directed Pacific Rim coming out on Friday; its premiere is tonight in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Warner Bros is working on a $450M-plus slate financing deal with Dune Entertainment that would be majority funded by Brett Ratner and James Packer’s RatPac Entertainment.
Universal’s Year-Long Turnaround Shows Movie Business’ Cyclical Nature
UPDATE: Brett Ratner’s RatPac Could Be Lead Funder With Dune In Warner Bros’ Potential $450M-Plus Slate Deal
UPDATE, 1:45 PM: More details are emerging on this possible deal. We’re hearing that RatPac Entertainment, the tie-up of producer-director Brett Ratner and Australian media tycoon James Packer, would be the majority partner in the possible Warner Bros’ slate financing deal that involves Dune Entertainment. We’re told RatPac would contribute 75% to whatever the final total might be should such a deal be struck. Ratner and Packer launched RatPac in December looking to produce and finance independent films and co-finance “blockbusters” with studio partners. Packer is personally backing the film development, production and finance company. “We intend to build a major independent film company which not only has the ability to fully finance its films, but which also offers creative independence for its filmmakers,” Ratner said at the time. We’re also hearing negotiations are moving quickly on the Warners-Dune-RatPac front, and a deal could be announced in two weeks.
PREVIOUS, 12:11 PM: Deadline’s Nikki Finke had already reported that if Legendary Entertainment‘s Thomas Tull did not strike a deal to remain at Warner Bros, the studio would either rely more on its straight financing partner Village Roadshow — or it could take on a slate deal like the one Dune Entertainment had at Fox. Well now it seems that an actual Dune option has moved up on the menu: According to sources, the studio is engaged in negotiations on a big financing deal …
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox is making a deal for Seven Wonders, a book proposal about the seven wonders of the world that is being eyed as a summer action/adventure film. They hope it will span a trilogy. FlynnPictureCo’s Beau Flynn and RatPac Entertainment’s Brett Ratner are producing. The book’s being written by Ben Mezrich, whose Bringing Down The House was turned into the film 21 and whose Accidental Billionaires was a basis for The Social Network. The book will be published next year. Ratner was an exec producer on 21.
This is the first project for the newly formed RatPac Entertainment – the venture that joined James Packer and Brett Ratner in film finance and production partnership. Ratner and Flynn are right now producing and Ratner is directing Hercules, which stars Dwayne Johnson and starts shooting in June for MGM, with a July 25, 2014 set.
Shout! Acquires EuropaCorp. Titles
Shout! Factory has picked up U.S. rights to the EuropaCorp. films, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec, directed by Luc Besson, and A Monster In Paris by Bibo Bergeron. Shout will roll the films out on a cross-platform release including home entertainment, VOD, SVOD and television. The César-winning Adèle Blanc-Sec is an adaptation of the Jacques Tardi comic book series and was released in France in 2010. Louise Bourgoin and Mathieu Amalric star. Shark Tale director Bergeron’s Monster is a CG-animated adventure based on his own original story about an inventor, his best friend and a monkey who inadvertently create a monster with a talent for music. Vanessa Paradis, Sean Lennon, Adam Goldberg, Danny Huston, Bob Balaban, Catherine O’Hara and Jay Harrington form the voice cast.
Scott Free London Lines Up ‘The Fishing Fleet’
Ridley Scott’s Scott Free London has acquired film rights to the Anne de Courcy novel The Fishing Fleet. The company will develop the project as a feature with Scott Free’s Liza Marshall producing. The book is a social history of husband hunting by young British women in India. The deal was negotiated by Blake Friedmann’s Conrad Williams and Carlo Dusi for Scott Free London.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Mark Wahlberg On Canadian Film Tax Incentives, Shine Group & Adrian Steirn, Australia’s Ten Network, Prime TV New Zealand
Mark Wahlberg Calls On Canada To Restore Film Tax Incentives
Mark Wahlberg is urging the Canadian government to restore federal tax incentives for film production. “We are really trying to encourage the government to reinstate these tax incentives to bring film and cinema back to Canada,” Wahlberg told The Globe And Mail in Toronto. Wahlberg, who has made seven movies in Canada, says a steady reduction in government tax subsidies means fewer Hollywood projects will be made there. Wahlberg’s Canadian-shot films include Fear, Shooter, The Big Hit, and Max Payne.
Australia’s Ten Network Sinks to Loss, Flags Further Cuts
After recording a net loss of $A12.9 million ($13.3 million) in the year to August 31, Australia’s Network Ten has flagged another round of cost-cutting, including voluntary buyouts. The broadcaster reduced TV costs by 6.6% or $42 million in fiscal 2012 but chief executive James Warburton insisted “that has not come at the expense of content.” Warburton said a strategic review launched earlier this year is ongoing and covers all departments. Revenue from continuing businesses fell by 15% to $729 million. In the first half of this year Ten captured 25.5% of the capital city television advertising market, trailing Seven’s 40% and Nine’s 34.5%, as the overall market shrunk by 3.6%. Ten’s shares edged up to 32.2 cents after hitting a record low of 30 cents yesterday after the company revealed a deal to sell its outdoor advertising business Eye Corp. to private equity firm Champ for $145 million had fallen over. Ten said it’s still negotiating with Champ. Broker CBA has raised the prospect that Ten’s four major shareholders, chairman Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon, who collectively own 40% of the stock, will opt to take the company private. – Don Groves
Netflix Goes Live In Sweden, Denmark And Norway
Netflix began rolling out this week in the Nordic territories. The UK’s ITV Studios Global Entertainment has now pacted …
Global Showbiz Briefs: The BBC’s Jimmy Savile Investigations, Oz’s Nine In Debt Restructure, European Discovery Nominees
BBC Appoints Independent Reviewers In Jimmy Savile Case
The BBC is pressing on with its investigations in the Jimmy Savile scandal that involves serious allegations of child sexual abuse against the late TV host. The corporation named former Court of Appeal judge Dame Janet Smith to lead the independent review into the allegations as they relate to the culture and practices of the BBC during the time Savile worked there and whether today’s policies are up to date. The group also appointed former head of Sky News Nick Pollard to oversee a review into Newsnight, the BBC current affairs program which shelved a segment investigating Savile last December. The Pollard Review will also look at the BBC’s handling of material that might have been of interest to the police or relevant authorities. BBC executive board member Dame Fiona Reynolds said, “These reviews will demonstrate the BBC’s determination to open itself fully to scrutiny from independent experts, emphasising our belief that the basis of the public’s trust is full openness and accountability.”
Australia’s Nine Staves Off Administration With Debt Restructure
Nine Entertainment‘s creditors reached a deal Wednesday to restructure $3.3B in debt. The senior lenders, led by U.S. hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Apollo Global Management, were owed $2.3B. They will now emerge with a 95.5% stake in the company. The mezzanine lenders led by Goldman Sachs, which were owed $1B, will receive a 4.5% stake valued at around $100M. CVC Asia Pacific, which bought Nine from James Packer for $5.5B in debt and equity in 2007, exits with nothing. Nine’s board was desperate to avoid going into receivership, which would have imperilled its $100M a year programming deal with Warner Bros. and contracts to televise National Rugby League matches and Australian Test cricket. “We have a fully capitalized business,” Nine’s chief executive David Gyngell told reporters. – Don Groves
Global Showbiz Briefs: Rome Fest Lineup, News Corp Bid For Consolidated Clears Hurdle, Cecchi Gori In Deal With Daro
Rome Film Festival Announces 2012 Lineup
The 2012 International Rome Film Festival lineup includes 59 world premieres and 5 international premieres. There also are two surprise films yet to be announced. Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III starring Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman is competing for the event’s top prize, as is Gabriel and Alan Polsky’s The Motel Life, starring Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson. Also on the competition list are Japanese director Takashi Miike’s thriller Aku No Kyoten, Jacques Dollion’s Un Enfant De Toi, and Enrique Rivero’s Mai Morire. The festival will be held November 9-17 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica. You can read the entire line-up on the festival’s website.
Global Showbiz Briefs: News Intl Fights Pricey Doc Disclosures, Nine Financial Woes, Honor For ‘Rise Of The Guardians’
News International Fights Expensive Document Disclosures In Phone-Hacking Case
News International has argued against pricey document disclosures relating to civil damages in the ongoing phone hacking case, warning that the cost to the company might reach $12.1M. The branch of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has already spent $1.6M on disclosure searches of documents and emails pertaining to litigation, with consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers spending a further $5.6M. News International counsel Dinah Rose QC argued at a high court civil case management hearing that the disclosures served the interest of prosecuting legal teams and not their clients. They are claiming for compensation related to News International’s four-year denial of phone hacking, when no claimant has pleaded this. “That’s the source of this problem,” Rose said. “We have here a superstructure created not because of the claims of a particular claimant, but [because of] the interests of a legal team.” Meanwhile, the Metropolitan police investigation into phone hacking continues, with a senior counter-terrorism detective charged Monday with breaching the Official Secrets Act. Detective chief inspector April Casburn is charged with feeding information pertaining to the Met’s inquiry into phone hacking to staff at the News Of The World. Police have also made two more arrests in the computer hacking investigation. One is believed to be a former News Of The World journalist and the other a private investigator. – Joe Utichi
Global Showbiz Briefs: More Sun Arrests, BBC News Changes, Nine Debt Crisis, Turkish ‘Private Practice’
Two Sun Journalists Arrested
Fifty people have now been arrested in Scotland Yard’s ongoing investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to public officials. Two journalists from News Corp. tabloid The Sun were detained this morning as was a police officer. The arrests were the result of information provided by News Corp.’s Management Standards Committee, the Metropolitan Police said. They relate to suspected payments to a public official and suspected disclosure of confidential information by a police officer.
New BBC Chief To Boost News Women, Keep Lid On Salaries
George Entwistle is making headlines in the UK during his first week as the BBC’s new director general. He said he would install more female news presenters in an interview with Radio 4. Male TV hosts have nothing to fear, he said, as he wouldn’t “remedy one inequity by indulging in another, turfing out a whole load of blokes who might be doing their job brilliantly with a view to getting women in.” Regardless, nobody should be looking for a star salary. The BBC has been in a period of austerity since its revenues were cut sharply through 2016 due to a freeze on the TV license fees that help support it. Entwistle told Radio Times the network will not “bankrupt” itself to hold onto to big names.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Keanu Reeves Doc, 007 Tour, Seven’s Bid For Consolidated, Nine’s Financial Woes
Keanu Reeves Goes ‘Side By Side’ In Poland
Plus Cameraimage, the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography that takes place in Poland, has added Keanu Reeves’ documentary Side By Side as its opening film. The film’s director, Chris Kenneally along with cinematographer Chris Cassidy, producer Justin Szlasa and producer/host Keanu Reeves will attend the screening in Bydgoszcz and talk about the film. Side By Side includes interviews with filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, George Lucas and martin Scorsese who discuss pros and cons of 35mm vs. digital. It was previously announced that David Lynch will receive the fest’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Directing. Fest runs Nov. 24 to Dec. 1.
007 Bond Tour Kicks Off Monday In The UK
James Bond is set to travel the UK to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise. Beginning Monday, Roger Moore and other Bond film stars will appear at locations around the country that have been used in the 007 movies including Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland, Penbryn Beach in Wales and Stoke Park in England. Former Bond girls Eunice Grayson, Britt Ekland and Shirley Eaton as well as Richard Kiel will join the 007 Days of Bond tour which ends in London on Sept. 24. The 23rd Bond picture Skyfall opens in the UK next month.
Goldman Sachs Preps Debt-To-Equity Scheme For Nine Entertainment
Goldman Sachs is putting together a deal for a group of U.S. hedge funds to take control of Australia’s debt-laden Nine Entertainment Co., according to the Australian Financial Review. The plan involves the hedge funds converting part of the media company’s $A3.8 billion ($3.9 billion) debt into equity. Goldman manages mezzanine debt funds owed around $1 billion by Nine. Private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific bought Nine Entertainment, which includes the Nine Network, Australian News Channel, Ticketek, the Allphones Arena and a 50% stake in NineMSN, from James Packer for $5.5 billion in 2007. Last week the firm sold its publishing division ACP Magazines to Germany’s Bauer Media Group for a reported $500 million. Under Goldman’s plan Nine would retain $1.25 billion in debt through a new five-year facility. The paper said Goldman was due to put its proposal to Nine Entertainment’s lenders including hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Apollo Global Management. -Don Groves
Australian Exhibitor Hoyts Enters VOD Biz
Launching in the first quarter of 2013, Hoyts will be the first major Australian exhibitor to offer a VOD service offering new releases day-and-date with DVD, plus classic movies and TV content. Monikered Hoyts Stream, the service aims to tap into Hoyts’ customer base which includes 547,000 members of its loyalty programs and 200,000 people who regularly use its DVD rental kiosk business Oovie. The initiative will put Hoyts Stream in direct VOD competition with Foxtel on Demand, Quickflix, iTunes, Big Pond Movies, Fetch TV, Google Play and Xbox. Nearly every Hollywood film and most indie titles are now available simultaneously on VOD and DVD in Australia. Neither of Hoyts’ major exhib rivals, Village Roadshow and Event Cinemas, has indicated any intention of entering the VOD business. Crispin Tristram, Hoyts chief marketing officer, who will run Hoyts Stream, said the firm is in advanced negotiations with U.S. majors and leading independents to acquire VOD rights. He declined to reveal pricing but said fees would be competitive. A subscription service for library film and TV content is to be introduced later in 2013. Hoyts chairman David Kirk said the company recognizes a need “to provide our customers choice for how they consume filmed entertainment from Hoyts, be it on the big screen, small screen or now any screen.”