MGM to distribute 'Penitentiary'
Reaching out to the Emerald Isle, former Universal topper Thom Mount has secured a $75 million lending facility from Allied Irish Bank to help finance a new film production company that has inked a first-look distribution deal with MGM.Reliant Pictures intends to produce six pictures in the $10 million-$15 million range over the next three years, beginning with action-thriller “Penitentiary,” which MGM has already agreed to distribute. Mount also will rely on new sales arm Reliant Pictures Intl. to provide coin for production. Veteran sales exec Penny Wolf will run the London-based sales unit. Wolf, who will be taking five projects to Cannes, was formerly managing director of Peace Arch Films and, before that, HBO Films. Launch of Reliant puts Mount — named president of Universal at the age of 26 — back in the game of making movies after taking time out as an independent producer to serve as prexy of the Producers Guild of America and to open, and then sell, the Los Angeles Film School. Reliant Pictures and Reliant Intl. are both owned by holding company Whitsett Hill Entertainment. Whitsett Hill Entertainment owners are Mount, Roger Howe, Ryan Howe, Mark Davis and other equity investors. Members of the advisory board include Smokey Robinson, Porter Bibb, Josh Kramer, Chris Blackwell and Gerry Butler. Mount’s new initiative also includes genre arm Whitsett Hill Films, which will produce pics in the $5 million-$7 million range. Mount, who still keeps offices on the U lot, is CEO of Whitsett Hill Entertainment and Reliant Pictures. “It’s been a long year putting all this together,” Mount told Daily Variety. “To professionalize independent filmmaking, you need distribution deals with major studios.” Under its deal with Reliant, the Lion will put up P&A costs for those films it agrees to release. Reliant is in discussions with Tony Kaye to direct “Penitentiary.” Film, penned by Carl Lund, is set to go into production this summer in New Mexico. On the financing side, Whitsett Hill Entertainment is putting together a super gap fund to be managed by hedge fund aficionado Dan Kern, according to Mount. Bigg will be an adviser. Mount said he has arranged co-financing deals with Arturo Muyshondt’s Wolfgang Cinema and with former Banc of America Securities investment banker Jonah Hirsch’s Fixed Point Pictures. Mount said Wolfgang Cinema will put up half the money for three pics. Former Fox and Sony exec Phil Fier has been named chief financial officer of Whitsett Hill Entertainment and Reliant Pictures. Whitsett Hill Films prexy Ryan Howe also manages Whitsett Hill’s existing recorded-music enterprises.