Live alive with new quartet

Live Entertainment’s new management team unveiled themselves and their business goals Thursday, one day after the publicly held indie film company finalized its private buyout by an investment group led by Bain Capital and Richland Gordon & Co.

Live chairman Roger Burlage remains in place as part of the new four-man team including :

CEO Mark A. Curcio, former head of Bain’s Los Angeles office. Curcio oversees day-to-day administrative functions including finance, legal affairs and human resources.

Co-president Amir Malin, former co-president of October Films, now heading domestic and international film distribution, including theatrical, homevideo and all ancillary markets.

Co-president Bill Block, former head of West Coast operations for International Creative Management, head of production and acquisitions, in which Malin will also be active.

Burlage, in Las Vegas for the Video Software Dealers Assn. confab, said, “The collective experience of the management team is ideally suited to develop Live into the premier independent film company in the world.”

The fact that neither Curcio nor Block has any film production credits or film company experience, however, seems not to daunt the team. “We view it as a plus,” they told Daily Variety before heading off to join Burlage and “meet the buyers” at the VSDA.

Curcio was a VP in the mergers and acquisitions department of Bain since 1995. He was previously a partner at the LEK consulting firm, and served a stint as director of corporate strategic planning at the Walt Disney Co. He indicated that Live will be pursuing strategic partners and opportunities to expand the company.

“We have strong equity backing by Bain, Richland, and Canyon Partners,” said Curcio, plus a credit line with Chase. He pointed to Bain’s $500 million current fund. “We don’t see access to cash as a problem.”

He would not say how much cash is on hand for production, but according to sources, Live’s production war chest contains around $60 million.

The team denied that staff changes are imminent. However, some cutbacks on overhead are expected, sources said.

Live will aim for 10-15 pics per year, mixing acquisitions and productions at budget levels ranging from $5 million to $25 million. In addition, negotiations are under way to bring Millennium Films, the October/Nu Image action film joint venture, under the Live banner.

“We’re not doing $60 million summer-competitive pictures,” said Block, indicating a strategy that aims “north of low-budget movies and south of mid-level studio pictures.”

Block said he will pursue split-rights deals, co-financing and creative deal-making, “especially where talent is involved.” He is expected to rely on his agenting relations among producers and directors to bring talent to Live projects.

Live will not be an exclusive conduit for ICM talent packages, said Block, who maintained that he will be pursuing an evenhanded policy toward other agencies.

Block is now on the buying side of the business after 17 years as a talent agent, mostly at ICM. Among the clients on his roster were stars such as Steven Seagal, writers Larry Ferguson and Menno Meyjes, and helmers Sam Raimi, Herbert Ross and Peter Hyams.

At ICM, which has been an advisor to Bain on its media investments, agency president Jim Wiatt said: “This has been a dream of Bill’s. It’s sad to see him go, but we wish him success.”

Wiatt said Block’s clients are being handled by other ICM agents, and said none has yet defected to other agencies. “I hope they will stay,” Wiatt said.

Live’s head of international sales, Ann Dubinet, will remain, said Malin. “I have been a big fan of Ann’s, and I look forward to working with her, and we’ll be exploring joint ventures and co-financing deals with overseas partners.”

On Live’s current projects and releases, the execs said they will be conducting a review on what’s in the pipeline, but have no projects they’re bringing in.

“This is an amazingly large company with over 2,000 titles in the library,” said Malin. “With DVD and new TV delivery systems, this is a real business.”

Live’s emphasis as “a filmmaker-oriented company” will be on theatrical films, Malin said.

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