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Targeting Civilians

Dot-com offers pic shares to Net investors

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Creating a counterpart to the Hollywood Stock Exchange — one in which players use real money — Civilian Pictures toppers Peter McDonnell and Barry Poltermann are launching Civilian Capital at the Sundance Film Festival. The online brokerage firm will allow movie watchers to invest in upcoming film projects.

Through www.civiliantrading.com, individuals will be able to buy shares in a film project and receive audited financial reports and other detailed info on the progress of the film, from production to theatrical releases, cable and homevideo exploitation. The shares of the film projects are expected to trade on the OTC bulletin board.

Chicago-based Civilian Capital is looking to list up to 15 projects per year as IPOs, with most listings budgeted from $3 million to $25 million.

Scripts, producers and talent will be outlined in the offering prospectus, allowing investors to make decisions based on the project’s originality, the producer’s and director’s track records and the lead actor’s box office appeal, among other factors. Investors will even be invited to the film’s premiere.

Clubhouse no more

“Hollywood is such a clubhouse, and civilians are considered the outsiders,” Civilian prexy McDonnell said. “They don’t make movies, they just watch them. They don’t count. We’re going to make them count.

“Civilian Capital’s model creates an efficient way to finance films, which allows independent filmmakers to jump-start production with fewer fund-raising hassles and creative compromises.”

Although the idea may seem a bit gimmicky, the venture has already been embraced by indie film producer John Sloss (“Ulee’s Gold,” “Boys Don’t Cry”) and thesp-director Diane Keaton, who serve as advisers. They will help identify projects for public offering by Civilian Capital.

“Traditionally, financing a film requires a set of compromises, and those compromises generally make films worse,” Keaton said. “Through Civilian, filmmakers have the opportunity to circumvent that process.”

Other advisers include Sean Bisceglia, CEO of Leo Burnett Technology, and Jim Mackay, chief technology officer at I2 Technologies.

Tapping online money

Civilian is also confident that it can tap into the $5.4 trillion that will sit in online investment accounts by 2005, according to figures from Jupiter Strategic Planning Services.

“Our studies have shown that about two-thirds of people who have online trading accounts are interested in making a film investment over the Internet,” Civilian CEO Poltermann said. “These are our civilians. We think they will embrace this opportunity to be part of an exciting and potentially lucrative investment.”

Civilian Capital has developed a preliminary slate which will be announced as soon as permitted under securities regulations.

With filmmakers Wrye Martin and Steve Farr, Poltermann founded Los Angeles-based Civilian Pictures in 1998 to produce and finance indie features, including docu “American Movie.”

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