The former CEO of Dune Entertainment and Village Roadshow chief died today of cancer in Los Angeles. Greg Coote was 72. He was a key player in the emergence of the Australian film industry, starting in the mailroom at Aussie distributor Village Roadshow and working his way up to Managing Director. “Greg was a champion of Australian films from the early 1970s, and he continued being a great supporter of Australian filmmakers,” said Screen Producers Australia president Brian Rosen. After a stint at Ten Network during which its ratings soared, Coote relocated to LA as President of Columbia Pictures’ international division, where he oversaw worldwide distribution, acquisitions and marketing. He later became the founding President and CEO of Village Roadshow Pictures in Los Angeles, and the company helped finance films including The Matrix. Later, when Coote was Chairman and CEO of Dune Entertainment, the company co-financed dozens of movies including Avatar, which went on to be the top-grossing film in history.
The supplementary financing deal between Village Roadshow Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment won’t trump Village Roadshow’s longtime co-financing partnership with Warner Bros., whose first-look deal most recently yielded the blockbuster $450M animated hit The Lego Movie.
Deadline previously reported that SonyEntertainment CEO Michael Lynton was looking for other co-financing partners and, in fact, are ready to go with former Warner Bros. president Jeff Robinov when his financing comes together and that will be a coup. Two of the films Robinov had the insight to shepard — 300: Rise of an Empire and The Lego Movie — together have already generated over $1B worldwide for WB this year. Sony already sealed a big $200M deal with Lone Star Capital and Citibank — half debt and half equity — which Deadline reported exclusively last month. It is a multi-year agreement to co-finance the majority of their films for the next several years.
The deal with Village Roadshow is imminent but will finance only a small percentage of a few pictures — not below 25% on each. A key deal point is that Sony will continue to keep most of its territories internationally as Village Roadshow operates in only a few territories, so the deal includes Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
Village Roadshow have deep pockets to finance and the deal covers select films on a picture-by-picture basis, starting with an initial quartet of upcoming titles: Antoine …
Village Roadshow Pictures Entertainment today promoted CFO Matthew Velkes to the newly created position of Chief Operating Officer, the company announced. Velkes will report to Bruce Berman, Chairman and CEO of VRPE and Greg Basser, CEO of Village Roadshow Entertainment Group. “We are pleased to recognize Matthew’s enormous contributions to Village Roadshow Pictures by naming him COO. During his six years at the company, Matthew’s work has expanded beyond the financial realm to that of a full-fledged motion picture executive. His extensive relationships in the community will serve the company well as we move forward to develop our next projects,” said the duo in a statement on Thursday. Velkes joined Village Roadshow back in 2006 as CFO. Those came after stints as Senior Vice President, Motion Pictures Finance and Business Development for Twentieth Century Fox and as CFO and later COO of startup independent film company Pandemonium. Before that Velkes had a career in investment banking.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Village Roadshow is extending its collaboration with Lana and Andy Wachowski, joining Warner Bros. to co-produce the action sci-fier starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis and Sean Bean. That will be VR Entertainment Group’s fourth collaboration with the Wachowski siblings following The Matrix trilogy and Speed Racer. VREG is also partnered with WB on The Great Gatsby, All You Need is Kill and Fury Road. Village Roadshow Ltd. today announced net profit after tax of $A33.5 million ($34.3 million) in the half year to December 31, up 18.4%. The main drivers were theme parks in Australia, Arizona and Hawaii ($44.2 million in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization), film distribution in Australia ($27.2 million) and cinemas in Australia and Singapore ($25.5 million). The firm’s Gold Class Cinemas in the U.S. recorded a small loss but managing director Graham Burke tells Deadline that business is growing strongly. VREG is committed to co-produce 6-8 Hollywood films per year after renewing its joint venture with WB for five years and increasing its U.S. credit facility to $1.1 billion last November. VRL draws an annual dividend of $5 million from its 47% stake in VREG, as Burke notes the firm continues to build the library, now at 72 titles.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Warner Bros, Disney, Village Roadshow and MGM films may not be missing from Australian pay-TV screens for long, despite the decision to dissolve their joint venture The Movie Network. Each studio is negotiating with dominant platform Foxtel and Deadline has learned the first licensing deals could be signed within two weeks. That would see those studios’ films screening on Foxtel by March or earlier as part of the paybox’s unified movies service. The seven TMN channels will disappear from Foxtel on December 31 when the current contract expires. TMN shareholders had no option other than to pull the plug when Foxtel rejected any idea of the separate channels continuing. Those studios are realizing they will have to accept less lucrative terms as Foxtel cuts costs and reduces the number of movie channels after buying the other major service Showtime from Paramount, NBCUniversal, Fox, Sony and Liberty Media in October. Foxtel is poised to announce a new lineup of rebranded movie channels and a new pricing structure, perhaps as early as Sunday. TMN has appointed Deloitte as liquidators. About 10 TMN staffers are expected to be offered jobs at Foxtel.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Village Roadshow Pictures aims to step up its co-productions with Warner Bros. via a debt refinancing due to be negotiated in New York this week. Part of Los Angeles-based Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, VRP has co-produced an average of 5-7 films per year although last year the co-venture made just four. VREG intends to ramp that up to 6-8 titles annually by increasing its debt facility from $1 billion to $1.1 billion. Executives believe this is a good time to seek refinancing while interest rates are attractive and to capitalize on the value of its library of 75 films including the upcoming The Great Gatsby and Gangster Squad. Village Roadshow Limited and VREG executives are due to meet with lead bankers JP Morgan and Rabobank in New York on Wednesday to arrange a 5-year refinancing. In June VREG bolstered its balance sheet by raising $275 million in new capital in a deal with Trinity Opportunities Limited and Hong Kong-based Shikumen Capital Management Limited.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
Co-producing the box office under-achievers Happy Feet Two, The Lucky One and Dark Shadows with Warner Bros. doesn’t seem to have hurt Australia’s Village Roadshow Ltd, which today announced a net profit of $A33.8M ($33.5M) for the year to June 30. That’s a 20.2% rise on the previous year. The company didn’t break out the results of its 47.6%-owned Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, which consists of Village Roadshow Pictures and the Concord Music Group. But managing director Graham Burke tells Deadline he’s happy with Village Roadshow Pictures’ performance, “We take a long-term perspective on our relationship with Warner. We put our money as a chip on the table with them.”
Burke highlighted the success of VRP’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which grossed $544M worldwide, and prospects for upcoming releases including Gangster Squad, The Great Gatsby, All You Need Is Kill, Lego and Fury Road. Burke says the 20 minutes of Great Gatsby he’s seen are “breathtaking” and he fully supports the decision to delay the release till summer 2013 to give Baz Luhrmann more time. In Oz, Roadshow Films continued as the top theatrical
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, June 28, 2012 – Village Roadshow Entertainment Group (VREG) today closed a US$380 million recapitalization that will include the injection of US$275 million in new capital as part of a six-year mezzanine and equity arrangement with Trinity Opportunities Limited (Trinity) arranged by the Company in conjunction with Hong Kong-based Shikumen Capital Management (HK) Limited (SCM).
The new capital will be used to strengthen VREG’s balance sheet, increase the number of co-financed and co-produced films by Village Roadshow Pictures (VRP) and support the continued growth of the Village Roadshow Entertainment Group Asia (VREG Asia) film business in China.
Warner Bros said today that Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has surpassed $529 million in global box office. That surpasses the $524.4 million taken in by the first film in the franchise, 2009′s Sherlock Holmes. Not that the studio and Village Roadshow needs justification for a third pic in the series — Sherlock Holmes 3 already has set Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) to pen the next installment that will bring back Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law for Guy Ritchie to direct. Game Of Shadows this past weekend upped its cumes to $186.7 million domestic and $324.3 million overseas. “Our successful box office continues to prove the appeal of Sherlock Holmes, especially in the hands of guy Ritchie and his amazing cast, led by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law,” Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said. “The film had outstanding results throughout the holidays and continued to gain traction well into 2012.”
Sherlock Holmes is in the midst of a serious career revival in Hollywood. Aside from the film franchise, the BBC’s ripping-good modern adaptation Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the Holmes and Watson roles has been commissioned for a third season (it airs on PBS in the U.S.). Also, CBS greenlighted its own modern adaptation as a pilot written by Robert Doherty and starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and …
Village Roadshow Asia, Universal Among Backers For Keanu Reeves’ China-Set Directorial Debut ‘Man Of Tai Chi’
Village Roadshow Asia, China Film Group and Wanda Media Group are teaming to co-produce Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut, Man Of Tai Chi, which will be co-financed and distributed by the partners and Universal Studios. The action drama is set in modern Beijing and centers on the spiritual journey of a young martial artist (Tiger Chen) whose skills create both vast opportunities and painful choices; Reeves will co-star. Lemore Syvan is producing. The production will shoot in Beijing, Hong Kong and Macau beginning in February, and the plan is to make a film that targets the vast China market as well as the rest of the world. Village Roadshow will distribute the film in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore; China Film Group and Wanda in China; and Universal the rest of the world including the U.S. “The opportunity to get further involved in the Chinese market and to bring Chinese films to audiences around the world is important to Universal,” Universal’s President, International David Kosse said in the release announcing the project. “Man of Tai Chi has an amazing pedigree of filmmakers and we’re thrilled to be a part of Keanu’s directorial film debut.”