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Cannes’ New UK Buyer? Icon Could Resurface With Backing From Prescience

By and | Monday March 25, 2013 @ 1:01pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: There have been seismic shifts in the UK’s indie distribution sector over the past few months, and more are in the cards. In what could be seen as a healthy sign for the industry, we’re hearing that Icon Distribution is set to re-emerge, backed by film fund Prescience, financier of The King’s Speech. The Icon UK Group, owned by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, pulled out of the distribution business in 2011 to focus on in-house film finance and production. At the time, it pacted with Lionsgate UK to handle its theatrical titles and recently announced a deal for Icon Entertainment International’s library to be repped by Exclusive Media. We understand that Prescience is close to a deal to acquire what remains of Icon Distribution in the UK, led by Icon executive Ian Dawson. We hear a deal has been in the works for some time and there’s a chance it may not make, but expectations are that the new company could launch in time to be buying at May’s Cannes Film Market.

Related: Lionsgate UK To Distribute Icon Titles, But No News On Library Deal

The timing looks fortuitous given the changing outline of the UK’s distribution landscape. Already this year, eOne’s takeover of Alliance folded in Momentum, eliminating a key buyer. The resultant drop in prices was loudly lamented by sales agents in Berlin. One exec tells us, “If you’re a producer or a sales agent selling to the UK, you used to say you needed to get eOne and Momentum in a bidding war,” and that’s clearly not happening anymore. But another distributor welcomes the rationalization of the market where prices were inflated by having too many distribs competing for the same films. Another tells us, “It’s shaking out the rubbish that’s out there and the projects that are un-financeable.”

Still, an overwhelmingly common refrain is that there is a real opportunity for another distributor to surface. A revived Icon could fill that space. Another name that pops up as a potentially aggressive player is Koch Media, the UK arm of the German giant. It released Arbitrage and Red Dawn earlier this month. Koch, a rival distributor opines, “has a shitload of money to burn through. That’s the first thing you need.” Read More »

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Cannes: Mandalay Vision Gets New Location And Leader, And Two-Year Funding Deal With Prescience

By | Friday May 13, 2011 @ 4:43pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Mandalay Pictures is moving its prestige pic division Mandalay Vision from New York to Los Angeles and has named Matthew Rhodes its new Vision president. At the same time, Mandalay owner Peter Guber and president Cathy Schulman have locked a new two-year funding deal with Tim Smith’s Prescience, financier of The King’s Speech.

Mandalay Vision launched in 2010 in New York with Celine Rattray as president. She left to form Maven Pictures with Trudie Styler. The company relocates to Mandalay’s LA office under Rhodes, who has produced such pictures as An Unfinished Life, Southland Tales, Passengers and the upcoming Nailed.

“In just one short year, Mandalay Vision has made its mark with such films as the current box-office success Soul Surfer and the Sundance standouts Salvation Boulevard and the award-winning Another Happy Day,” said Schulman. “Matt’s mastery of both the financial and creative aspects of film production will further boost Mandalay Vision’s foundation as new leader in the independent film community. And in Prescience, we’ve found an elegant, high quality partner with excellent taste, who shares our desire to support filmmakers with vision.”

Under the Prescience deal for Mandalay, the financier will supply $50 million in production funding for up to six features over the next two years by Mandalay Vision. The Prescience-Ealing Studios joint venture Ealing Metro has an option on handling international sales. The films will fall in the budget range of $5 million-$15 million.

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CANNES: Jack Black Teams For ‘Bailout’ Comedy With Director Michael Winterbottom

By | Thursday May 12, 2011 @ 1:47am PDT
Mike Fleming

Ealing Metro International and The King’s Speech financier Prescience will finance and sell worldwide rights on Bailout, a Michael Winterbottom-directed comedy that will star Jack Black. The film is based on the Jess Walter novel The Financial Lives of The Poets. Walter adapted his novel, which follows the misadventures of Matt Prior (Black), who loses his job, is crippled with debt and is convinced his wife is having an affair. He’s two weeks from losing his home when he meets two losers at the supermarket who offer him a strange business opportunity and his last chance to save himself. Michael Besman of Ballyhoo is producing with Melissa Parmenter of Revolution Films, Black and Ben Cooley and Priyanka Mattoo of Electric Dynamite. Shooting will begin in August. WME reps Black and Winterbottom, ICM reps Walter.

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Ealing Studios And ‘The King’s Speech’ Financier Prescience Merge Sales Arms

By | Wednesday April 20, 2011 @ 5:25am PDT

Ealing Studios and The King’s Speech financier Prescience has merged their respective sales arms. The companies previously worked together on both St. Trinian’s films, Dorian Gray and Easy Virtue. They say combining gives them “a unique advantage,” because of the money that Prescience brings to the table. They also said no jobs will be lost in the consolidation. “The beauty of this merger is that we now have access to Prescience’s money,” says Will Machin, Ealing’s head of distribution. Machin will run Ealing Metro. “There are very few companies in the indie marketplace that can offer what we can now.” Prescience has raised around $250 million to date through its Aegis Film Fund and Metropolis Media EIS tax fund. Ealing Metro will offer equity, gap financing and in some cases will put up minimum guarantee  advances against international sales, the money that gets films rolling. The plan is to handle 10-15 films a year,  with Machin working alongside with Natalie Brenner and James Scott.

Ealing Metro’s current slate includes upcoming productions Better Living Through Chemistry, which stars Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Garner and shoots in July; the Iain Softley-directed psychological thriller Trap For Cinderella, which stars Tuppence Middleton and Alexandra Roach; and the Nina Simone biopic Nina, which stars Mary J Blige and David Oyelowo, and starts production May 23. Read More »

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Profile: UK Financier Of ‘The King’s Speech’

By | Sunday January 23, 2011 @ 2:37pm PST

In America, The Weinstein Co has received most of the PR bonanza for backing Oscar-touted The King’s Speech. But it’s really a British film financing company aptly named Prescience that first recognized the film’s potential. With an office in Beaconsfield, a quaint market town 20 miles outside of London, the Prescience only set up in business 5 years ago — which underscores how far this boutique film financier has come. Prescience has backed 25 films to date with a total production value of $400 million. It’s run by managing director Tim Smith and his co-director Paul Brett who’ve both worked in the movie industry for more than 20 years at British outposts of Hollywood studios. Smith used to work for Fox, while Brett has worked for Miramax, Pathé and Paramount. Both come from a marketing background, which is what they say they’re bringing to the party. Brett tells me: “In Hollywood a film gets greenlit when they have a release date and know how it’s going to be marketed. Here a film is greenlit when the money’s available.”

The Weinstein Company and Prescience were the first financiers in after UK distributor Momentum. Iain Canning, co-producer of The King’s Speech, had decided to keep the project independent, turning down an offer from Fox Searchlight to fully fund the movie. Instead, The Weinstein Company took North American rights plus a clutch of several other territories including France and Germany. Prescience’s job was to fund the production, lending against pre-sales, tax money, and territories which sales agent FilmNation had yet to sell. The UK Film Council and UK post-production company Molinare rounded out the $12 million budget with some equity. But co-producer Gareth Unwin tells me: “Prescience were a key element of our finance plan. Without their commitment, the film would not have happened.”

So, what was it about The King’s Speech that made Prescience want to get on board a period English drama? “It was easily the best script I’ve ever read,” says Brett, who reads between 300 to 400 screenplays a year, about David Seidler’s original screenplay.

Now Prescience has aligned itself with The King’s Speech filmmakers again on another project written by Seidler. Read More »

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