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Union sets up game pix fund

Co. to create playable demos to help sell projects

Film and vidgame production company Union Entertainment has raised $1.2 million for development of games tied to studio films.

Union will use the money to create playable demos for pitching game and movie packages or games the company hopes to later adapt into a film.

Fund is a rare financial alternative for game developers outside of publishers and the first of its kind tied to a Hollywood production company.

“The fund will enhance our efforts to integrate film and videogame development as we build the franchises of the future,” said Sean O’Keefe, prexy of Union’s film division.

Games typically cost $5 million-$10 million to produce, and developers usually have to attract the entire amount from a publisher like Electronic Arts based on little more than a concept. Union hopes creating playable demos will help sell projects to film studios and game publishers, as well as allow developers to retain more creative control of their original ideas.

Money comes from Korean software firm Digital Tetra, which hopes to get involved in Union’s productions.

Union was founded last January by O’Keefe and partner Richard Leibowitz with the goal of producing games and films simultaneously. Company is currently working with Fox Interactive to set up a game adaptation of Ridley Scott-helmed Crusades pic “Kingdom of Heaven, ” skedded for summer 2005 release, and has the rights to adapt Top Cow comicbook “Darkness.”

It also manages several game development companies, including Climax and Studio Bigante, representing them in Hollywood deals and with publishers.

If this first fund is successful, Union plans to raise larger amounts of money in the future to provide a viable independent financing option for vidgames, mirroring private financing options in the film industry.

The last similar effort, Capital Entertainment Group, shut down last year due to an inability to raise money. Co-founder Seamus Blackley went on to become a gaming agent at CAA, while co-founder Eugene Mauro is starting up a new company in the same vein called Myelin Media.

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