HandMade in dream Sequence

Film company crafts deal with duo

LONDON — In a bid to relaunch itself as a significant indie player, HandMade, one of the leading British film companies of the 1980s, has struck a deal to acquire Guy Collins and Michael Ryan’s Sequence Films.

HandMade has agreed to pay up to $8.4 million in cash and shares for Sequence, payable over three years and dependent on the company meeting performance targets.

Collins and Ryan, both in the foreign sales business for 30 years, will head up HandMade Films Intl.

They will be responsible for worldwide sales, distribution and marketing of HandMade projects and the existing Sequence slate.

HandMade, shingle of the late George Harrison, has been revamped under new ownership and executive team.

Passing through several hands after Harrison sold it in the early ’90s, it’s listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market. HandMade is headed by chairman Patrick Meehan, managing director David Ravden and Antony Rufus Isaacs, who runs the company’s film production arm.

“We will take (HandMade’s) reputation and tradition and build an even greater, integrated U.K.-based entertainment company,” Meehan said.

Projects on the HandMade slate include a series of movies based on the “Eloise” children’s books, with Nigel Cole in talks to direct the first installment, “Eloise in Paris,” next spring. Larry Clark is also set to direct “Shame,” a remake of the HandMade pic “Mona Lisa.”

The Sequence slate, which is now part of HandMade Films Intl., includes bullfighter biopic “Manolete,” starring Adrien Brody and Penelope Cruz; the latest film in the “Highlander” franchise; Brit animated pic “Tales of the Riverbank,” featuring the voices of Steve Coogan, Jim Broadbent and Stephen Fry; “Stone Angel,” starring Ellen Burstyn; and “The Heart of the Earth,” starring Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Collins and Ryan launched Sequence in 2003 after taking their previous company, IAC Films, into voluntary administration, the British equivalent of Chapter 11, in 2000. The company has continued trading since then under its existing management.

“At Sequence over the last 2½ years, working with some key industry partners, we have financed and sold an unprecedented number of movies, many co-productions, using all manner of financing tools,” said Collins and Ryan.

They will be joined at HandMade Films Intl. by Carl Clifton, the former Polygram, Universal and FilmFour exec, who has been named head of international sales. Amanda Kenyon will be marketing chief.

HandMade was originally founded by Harrison and his business manager Denis O’Brien to make “Life of Brian” in the late 1970s. It went on to produce “Time Bandits,” “Mona Lisa” and “Withnail and I,” among other films, before running into financial trouble, withdrawing from active production and being sold.

That was the beginning of a slide into obscurity and a series of ownership shuffles that ended when Meehan took control of the company and then reversed it earlier this year into his AIM-listed vehicle Equator.

The purchase of Sequence marks the first step by the revived HandMade back into the spotlight. Commenting on its new business plan, Ravden said, “Our plan is to continually refresh our two main assets, the combined library and the ‘Eloise’ franchise, which will include arranging the financing … to enable Antony to produce a regular supply of original films so that the value of the library grows year by year.”

Other projects on the development slate include the Anglo-Spanish co-production “Dogs,” adapted by Tom McCown from the short story by Ted Kooser. Alex de la Iglesia will direct.

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