170 apply for four film prod'n franchises

LONDON – An astonishing 170 preliminary applications have been submitted to the Arts Council of England for the four film production franchises which will be funded by the national lottery.

Potential bidders for the franchises were required to notify the Arts Council of their interest by Dec. 16. They have until the final Feb. 28 deadline to make their actual bids.

The number of eventual bidders is certain to be several times fewer than the 170 expressions of interest. That’s partly because just about every member of a bidding consortium has submitted its own separate notification, in order to keep options open in case the would-be partners fall out in the next 10 weeks.

What’s certain is that the 170 applications include everybody who’s anybody in the British film industry – and dozens of nobodies beside.

Although the franchises are supposed to be controlled by producers, several financiers have made speculative declarations of interest in the hope that they can pull a group together by the end of February.

The volume of submissions has rather defeated the point of the preliminary deadline, which was supposed to give the Arts Council a clear idea of how many bids it should gear itself up to deal with on Feb. 28.

“‘It’s only given us an idea of just how desperate people are for money,” commented a council source wryly.

The Arts Council plans to award up to four franchises, each guaranteed privileged access to a pool of lottery cash over six years to co-finance British movies. Bidders can apply for a minimum of $10 million up to a maximum of $65 million.

The idea is to encourage producers, sales companies, distributors and financiers to join together in mini-studios, using the lottery cash as bait to attract private capital.

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