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‘Gangster’ boosts Gun Hill fire power

Film's success pays off for $700 million fund

In the world of Wall Street-backed slate financing, sometimes crime does pay.

“American Gangster,” which opened last weekend with $43.6 million, marks the fifth title for Gun Hill II — the $700 million fund created by Relativity Media to co-finance 19 Universal and Sony films.

At the time of the fund’s May 2006 launch, Sony and U declined to name the 19 films. But as the pics unspool — sometimes sporting the Relativity label — the fund’s health is becoming more clear.

“The results of ‘American Gangster’ were obviously fantastic,” says Relativity chief Ryan Kavanaugh. “It just shows why having a slate is so critical — yesterday down, today up. As the slate progresses, any single film should not cause too much volatility, but when one (performs well) this early on, (it) causes a huge swing to the upside.”

That’s good news for Gun Hill II investors, who weathered two expensive misses in U’s “Evan Almighty” and Sony’s “Marie Antoinette” and one middling performer with Screen Gems’ low-budget horror film “The Messengers.”

“American Gangster” joins U’s “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” in the plus column.

“In fact,” says Kavanaugh, “the film puts the fund in the black.”

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