Till sets up new intl. film co.

Producer-distributor to tap $2 billion in funding

LONDON — Former Polygram and Universal honcho Stewart Till has launched an international film production and distribution company, in partnership with Canada’s CDP Capital Communications and Mosaic Media Group, with $300 million in backing.

The as-yet unnamed company, based in London and Los Angeles, intends to produce 40 films over the next five years and set up its own distribution arms in key foreign territories. Pics will predominantly be produced in the U.S.

Company has production deals with Charles Roven’s Atlas Entertainment and Eric Gold and Jimmy Miller’s Gold/Miller Entertainment, both subsids of Mosaic. Further producer pacts will be announced shortly.

Till is in advanced negotiations for a U.S. distribution deal with MGM, Miramax or a combination of the two.

Total investment in production and worldwide distribution over five years is estimated at $2 billion. Till is understood to have raised around $300 million in working capital — a mix of equity from CDP and Mosaic and debt from Union Bank of California.

Till, who was president of Universal Pictures Intl. and before that international prexy of Polygram Filmed Entertainment, is president and CEO of the new venture. He has been working on this plan, based on the PFE model, since he ankled U early last year.

“I believe that there is a huge gap in the marketplace for a well-capitalized company with our strengths, motivation and strategies,” Till commented.

Following the PFE model, the company will set up its own distribution companies in major foreign territories including the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Australasia. Sales to the rest of the world will be handled inhouse.

But unlike PFE, it has no plans for its own U.S. distrib arm. It plans to launch its first two local distribs by fall 2002. It will either hire a local exec to set up a new company or become a partner in an existing operation, depending on circumstances.

$1 bil prod’n commitment

The production and distribution slate will range from $70 million blockbusters to $5 million-$10 million fare. With an average budget of around $25 million, that adds up to a $1 billion production commitment over five years.

At least two pics are expected to be in production by the end of this year, with Till aiming to make four to six films in the first 12 months.

He is now looking to hire four key execs — a head of production and a head of business affairs based in Los Angeles, and a chief operating officer and a head of sales, marketing and distribution based with him in London.

It will come as no surprise if Till is joined by several of his former lieutenants at PFE. One heavily tipped is David Kosse, managing director of U.K. distrib Momentum Pictures. Other candidates include U president of international marketing David Livingstone and U prexy of acquisitions Graeme Mason.

For Montreal-based CDP Capital Communications, deal is another step in its aggressive move into the entertainment content biz. A venture capital offshoot of Canada’s biggest public pension fund, CDP-CC already has taken a 2% stake in MGM and made a substantial investment in Mosaic.

Mosaic was formed two years ago by the merger of Atlas and its music management arm, Atlas/Third Rail, with Gold/Miller, which also spans production and management of such talent as Jim Carrey and Jay Roach.

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