Signpost reconsiders

Stewart Till’s Signpost Films has beaten a hasty retreat from Canada, less than a month after announcing plans to set up a distribution arm in the Great White North.

The Canadian office was due to be headed by local veterans Yves Dion and Andy Myers, but it has now been put on ice until mid-2003, by which time Signpost should actually have some films to release.

Signpost’s principal financier is Montreal-based pension fund CDP Capital, which was keen for the company to have a visible Canadian presence. But Dion and Myers jumped the gun by announcing their appointment before Till was ready.

Having previously worked at the defunct Blackwatch Releasing, which repped Sony Pictures Classics in Canada, the duo had hoped to bring the SPC relationship to Signpost.

But when SPC decided instead to go with Toronto-based Mongrel Media, Signpost was left with an empty release slate.

The company does not even have Canadian rights to its first (and so far only) production, the Chow Yun Fat starrer “Bulletproof Monk,” which is going through MGM in North America.

“We were considering opening a company in Canada, but we decided it would be premature, because we realized that there’s very little strong product available just for Canada,” says Till.

Betting is that Germany will be the first territory where Signpost will launch a local distrib. Buyers say that “Bulletproof Monk,” a $55 million actioner which comes with a hefty 5% first-dollar gross deal for producer Charles Roven, was not being offered to Teutonic distribs at the American Film Market.

* * *

The surprise U.S. success of “Croupier” breathed new life into the careers of its director Mike Hodges and its star Clive Owen. They are now set to reteam this summer on “I’ll Sleep Till I’m Dead,” a thriller with backing from Paramount Classics and The Film Consortium.

Mike Caplan, who was behind the U.S. marketing push for “Croupier,” brought the project to Brit producer Nik Powell. They are putting together the final pieces of financing for a June shoot.

Powell has also attached helmer Paul McGuigan to develop “He Killed Coppers,” a novel by Jake Arnott which revisits the same sordid ’60s Soho crime scene featured in McGuigan’s violent debut “Gangster No. 1.”

Simon Franks and Zygi Kamasa, co-founders of U.K. distrib Helkon SK, are angling to buy the company back from its German majority shareholder Helkon Media.

Helkon doesn’t want to sell, but might have no choice. It agreed to pay $23 million for a 51% stake in late 2000, but it still owes the final installment, thought to be in the region of $7 million, and may not have the cash.

While the German company’s fortunes have tumbled on the Neuer Markt, the U.K. distrib, which is financially insulated from its parent, has prospered, with hits such as “Jeepers Creepers,” and has high hopes for the upcoming “Bend It Like Beckham.”

Franks is keen to realize his ambition of expanding into distribution across continental Europe, but the relationship with Helkon, which remains amicable, must be sorted out first.

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