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Wild Bunch collars a stash of cash

Relativity Media helps structure deal

Gallic film company Wild Bunch on Monday announced the creation of a $145 million joint venture that it will manage for the acquisition and co-production of feature films.

An American investment fund, backer of the 50-50 venture, has also taken a stake in Wild Bunch, while Iris Capital, a European media fund, has increased its equity investment in the company.

Wild Bunch’s founders continue to hold a total 65%.

Relativity Media, involved in a $528 million co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Pictures two weeks ago, helped structure the deal, Wild Bunch said.

Launched four years ago as an indie sales house by a handful of former StudioCanal execs, Wild Bunch is one of the key players in the field internationally — handling pics as diverse as “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “March of the Penguins.” Revenues last year were more than e40 million ($48 million).

Company has also expanded its activities to include co-production and theatrical and video distribution in Gaul.

Ultimate goal is to build a pan-European distribution network — plans topper Vincent Grimond said Monday should become a reality in the next 18 to 24 months.

“We have entered a phase of acceleration,” Grimond told Daily Variety.

“The deal we have just signed puts us in a much stronger position to acquire films and that makes us more attractive to potential distribution partners,” the exec added, saying that the company could now consider teaming with bigger distribution players with a library of movies.

In France the company took a majority stake in theatrical indie Pan Europeene Edition last year. In its first 12 months it notched up 3.5 million ticket sales.

Wild Bunch is most likely to take its first theatrical steps outside France in Spain. The company has signed a confidentiality clause while it conducts negotiations with a potential partner in there, said managing director Brahim Chioua.

In terms of the films in which it intends to invest, Grimond said Wild Bunch will be looking at ambitious U.S. fare and films that have a potential for TV sales, “but we’re not going to jump on big-budget American comedies,” he said.

“We will also continue to invest in French films and films from other parts of the world,” he added.

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