First Look banking big bucks

Indie closes three-year deal with Merrill Lynch

Indie banner First Look Studios said Wednesday that it has closed a three-year, $80 million credit line with Merrill Lynch & Co.

Move will allow the production, financing and distribution company to up the number of films it turns out as the indie looks to go public.

“This really completes our plan to release 10 films theatrically in 2007, which will be a combination of platform and wide releases,” said First Look topper Henry Winterstern. “The credit facility is a testament to our ability to become a fully integrated company.”

Winterstern said his team is in the process of filing the requisite paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and he expects First Look to be listed as a publicly traded stock come September.

With its credit facility in place, First Look intends to double its output, churning out 10 pics next year with films budgeted up to $30 million.

This year, company has a slate of five pics, including the Larry Clark’s latest, “Wassup Rockers,” which bows Friday.

Winterstern, who took over last fall, said the credit line will be secured by the company’s 800-title library, as well as revenues and projected revenues from upcoming films.

Under Winterstern’s leadership, First Look has completed several acquisitions, combining the First Look Media, Capital Entertainment, DEJ Prods. and Ventura Distribution labels under a relaunched First Look moniker.

Winterstern added that Merrill Lynch has taken an equity stake in First Look, which is further backed by Prentice Capital, the Gotham-based hedge fund.

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