New film arm to produce genre fare

Peter Block has launched A Bigger Boat, a film company that will produce the genre fare he oversaw as longtime prexy of acquisitions and co-productions at Lionsgate.

The venture — which takes its name from the classic line from “Jaws” — sets course with a co-financing and distribution deal with Overture Films that covers North America and another with Alliance Films covering the U.K., Spain, Italy and Scandinavia.

The Overture and Alliance arrangements position Block to have at least 50% of the financing on genre films that will cost between $10 million and $25 million. Block will use those contracts as collateral to underwrite the film budgets and said the clout of his partners give the cushion to make more favorable deals in other territories.

Those partners will include GreeneStreet Films, whose principals, John Penotti and Tim Williams, will be involved in the A Bigger Boat slate as producers. They will also lend Block their business affairs, legal and accounting operations, and GreeneStreet Films Intl. prexy Amy Beecroft will be the sales agent for the films in territories not covered under the Alliance deal.

Block is in the formative stages on a slate that will likely include a John Carpenter-directed thriller and the E.L. Katz-scripted thriller “Dark Corners.” Block will begin by making two to three films per year and feels that the partnerships — forged through relationships built during his eight-year Lionsgate stint — allows A Bigger Boat to launch quickly without having to built a backroom infrastructure or chase bank credit lines that often aren’t what they appear.

“I wanted to launch a company different than many I see that talk about how much money they raised but leave out the bank covenants that restrict drawing on it,” Block said. Block described his output/financing arrangement with Overture as “something between a first look and a put deal,” with a submission and approval process that ensures that Overture toppers Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett believe in the films as much as Block does. Covering 50% of the budget through Overture and Alliance makes the rest easier.

“I can bank those contracts and get the films financed and won’t have to sell them right away at lower costs,” Block said. GreeneStreet’s Penotti worked with Block at Lionsgate on GreeneStreet films such as the John Polson-directed Russell Crowe starrer “Tenderness” and got good advice from Block on non-Lionsgate films like “In the Bedroom” and “Swimfan.” Penotti had never heard of a venture contracting out another’s backroom infrastructure but said the deal benefits both and puts GreeneStreet in the genre game.

“We’re known for working with first-time directors and for material that isn’t overtly commercial, and the films Peter has always been involved in have a more definable target audience that takes guesswork out of the P&A spend and ancillary estimates,” Penotti said.

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