Enough money is raised to support two series

SYDNEY — The cachet of Kerry Packer’s Nine Network and the financial clout of the Macquarie Bank Group aren’t as enticing to Australian investors as both parties had hoped.

The inaugural Macquarie Nine Film and Television Investment Fund, which closed on Friday, raised $A23.5 million ($13 million), well short of the $34.3 million target. The fund was intended to bankroll three TV series, one telepic and up to eight films, with the coin split evenly between film and TV projects.

There’s enough in the kitty to partly fund two series (“Young Lions” and the second season of “McLeod’s Daughters”) plus the telepic “The Postcard Bandit” and two pics, “Gettin’ Square” and “Under the Radar.”

Nine is making up the shortfall on the series, whose combined budgets were listed as $11.7 million. Investors were offered a 100% tax writeoff and a minimum guaranteed return of 50%, payable in installments through June 2005.

Macquarie execs declared the fund a success, given what they conceded were difficult market conditions, and said the bank is keen to work again with Nine to launch another film and TV fund in early 2003.

“I’m pleased with the result, considering the tough market for financing films,” said Hugh Marks, director of Nine Films & Television. Nine hasn’t decided yet on whether to reup with Macquarie, but Marks added, “I would like to; it’s a great combination.”

Macquarie exec director of investment banking Charles Wheeler said, “We’re very encouraged by the support we got and the feedback (from the financial market). All we lacked was a track record, which we hope we can build.”

Dennis Tomaras, tax director of entertainment and media at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said Nine and Macquarie did well to raise that coin, adding, “Movies are the ultimate high risk/high reward investment. In difficult times, people look for a bit more certainty in their investments and are prepared to trade high returns for ‘safety.’ Also, a lot of Australian movies over the last five years have not made a commercial return.”

“Gettin’ Square” is a comedy-drama about small-time criminals who are trying to go straight, from “Better Than Sex” director Jonathan Teplitzky and producer Mushroom Pictures. David Wenham will topline and a U.K. actor is being cast.

“Under the Radar” is a black comedy about a young surfer, a mentally disabled guy and a beautiful gal who get caught in a battle between rival drug gangs, Chris Brown produces and Chris Fitchett directs.

“Postcard Bandit,” produced by Ross Plapp, is based on the true story of an Oz bank robber who sent postcards to the cops who were hunting him.

Nine and Macquarie execs are keen to find a way to work with producer-director Bill Bennett on “Fast Car,” a car chase pic through the Outback. The fund won’t cover its $13 million budget.

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