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AOL infusion boosts Urban

Conglom will look to site for online, offline projects

Netco and production shingle Urban Entertainment has joined the AOL Time Warner family, netting $5.5 million in financing from the conglom and inking a first-look deal with New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Online to produce full-length films and Internet-based programming.

Company, which first gained notoriety last year when Universal and Imagine Entertainment spent $2 million to adapt John Ridley’s Webtoon “Undercover Brother” into a feature, has become an outlet for A-list African-American talent to incubate TV and film projects online.

Urban Entertainment, topped by CEO Michael Jenkinson and prexy Damon Lee, has deals to produce original animated series with helmers John Singleton, George Tillman Jr. and Malcolm Lee.

Other films in development based on the site’s animated series include “Those Who Walk in Darkness,” at WB; and “There Goes the Nation,” with Alcon Entertainment. Urban is also producing the comedy “Whitebread” for Disney.

New Line has yet to pick up any projects from Urban to develop into features. Which projects will be distribbed on Warner Bros. Online also have yet to be determined.

Hypnotic parallel

New Line’s relationship with Urban is expected to be similar to that between Universal and Netco and production venture Hypnotic, where the studio looks to the on-and offline production venture to help identify projects to develop into feature films or television shows.

“Michael Jenkinson and Damon Lee have established an exciting home for innovative new filmmakers,” New Line production prexy Toby Emmerich said. “They have nurtured relationships that New Line is anxious to pursue.”

Funding for diversity

Much of Urban Entertainment’s new round of financing, which marks its second since bowing, came from AOL Time Warner’s Opportunity Investment Fund, a venture that bowed in July and targets businesses that have diverse management teams and focus on underserved markets. Urban’s first-round investor Provender Capital Group also returned.

“We’re very pleased that AOL Time Warner has invested in Urban Entertainment,” Jenkinson told Daily Variety. “Their goal of seamless integration of online and offline assets fits perfectly with our strategy and structure.”

New Line senior veep of business and legal affairs Amy Goodman and VP of business development Michael Del Nin served as liaisons between the studio and its corporate parent to broker the deal.

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