Blue Rider goes Oz

Williamson Ent. houses prod'n outfit in BevHills

As the first step in what it says is a long-term plan to build a vertically integrated, independent entertainment company, Australian investment group J.C. Williamson Entertainment has acquired production and sales house Blue Rider Entertainment.

Under the arrangement, Santa Monica-based BRE will move to Williamson’s new headquarters in Beverly Hills. The company is expected to keep its name and a separate staff from its new parent, however.

BRE, which partners producers Jeff Geoffray and Walter Josten with sales agent Murray Schultz, is attending its first AFM with its new foreign sales arm, Blue Rider Intl.

Production division Blue Rider Pictures has plans to make around 12 pictures this year, including Christian Ford’s $5.5 million suspense thriller “Slow Burn”; the $4.5 million action/adventure “Shergar,” about the stolen Irish racehorse; the $4.5 million family pic “Silver Wolf”; and $3.5 million action thriller “The Eleventh Hour.”

Already in post is horror pic “The Clown at Midnight,” starring Christopher Plummer and Margot Kidder. Cabin Fever En-tertainment has U.S. rights.

BRE also is producing several projects for other companies. It is in post-production on “Children of the Corn V,” to which Miramax-owned genre label Dimension Films has worldwide rights.

And together with Robin Williams and Marsha Garces Williams’ Blue Wolf Prods., BRE will produce the $35 million drama “Damien of Molokai,” with Robin Williams attached to star in the title role. TriStar Pictures has worldwide rights to that project.

Williamson — an established name in Australia with little international presence — has been relatively inactive in the entertainment business for the past 10 years. According to Williamson CEO Geoffrey Talbot, the Blue Rider deal marks the reawakening of the sleeping giant.

“We were looking for a U.S. production entity to get us started, and Blue Rider has a great development record and good relationships with distributors and talent,” Talbot said. “This company also was adequately enough capitalized to enable it to move to the next level.”

Talbot said Williamson would position itself as a “middle-market” company, engaged in production and distribution.

The company is hatching plans to sell around 40% of its equity in a public share offering on the NASDAQ exchange, with a view to raising around $50 million.

Other pending deals include the acquisition of a 2,500-title library and a digital animation company. Talbot would not disclose the name of the library acquired.

Together with Chicago-based attorney Ken Levin, Williamson has bought a 12-title comic book company. Two projects are in development: the $30 million “Grim Jack” and “Badger,” which is in turnaround from producer Scott Rudin.

Talbot claimed that Williamson has raised some coin to finance its U.S. expansion from private investors in Australia.

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