Even as Hollywood sounds a death knell for insurance-backed financing, a Canadian newcomer, Knightscove Entertainment, has clinched a deal with a trio of insurers that provides up to $100 million for 10-20 children’s theatricals over four years.
The highly niched group will focus on films with a “kids and animals vs. nature” theme, along the lines of “Lassie,” “Old Yeller” and “Free Willly,” said founder and CEO Leif Bristow, formerly of Devine Entertainment. The genre, he noted, “has been among the most enduring.”
After nearly a year of negotiating, the arrangement using an insurance-backed bond issue — one of Canada’s first — closed Wednesday.
An official announcement is expected Monday.
Bristow wouldn’t discuss his insurance partners, who want to stay low key. Apparently they include one U.S-based, one U.K.-based and one Bermuda-based insurer. Two of the three are old hands at film financing, and the third is a novice.
Toronto-based Knightscove has set up digs in Los Angeles with Robert Schwartz as production head. Schwartz’s credits include “Final Justice,” “With or Without You” and “Iron Will.” Murray Marchant, a top exec with major Canadian media group Astral Communications, will head up the finance side of the business from Toronto.
The company will go as high as $15 million a film, with the average budget ranging from $4 million to $8 million.
“The total thrust is family entertainment,” Bristow said, predicting that the specialty will make Knightscove an effective conduit for distributors. It is talking to a number of distribs now around the world.
He said $100 million “to create product in the world of Hollywood is not an enormous sum of money, but used responsibly and wisely, it can do very well.”
A former singer and investment banker, Bristow spent four years pulling together production finance packages for Devine Entertainment, whose kids’ fare includes made-for-TV pics about Thomas Edison, Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Albert Einstein. The profiles tell the stories of historical figures through encounters with children.