Financier is the latest source of Russian money in Holllywood
Moscow-based financier Christophe Charlier has made an undisclosed investment in production shingle Pure Grass Films, becoming the latest in a series of Russian financiers to jump into the film biz recently.Investment, announced in a Wednesday release, will allow London-based Pure Grass to produce higher-budgeted features. “Twist,” a contemporary retelling of Oliver Twist featuring parkour action, will mark the first of such films. Charlier, a co-founder of music and sports company Le Castle Film Works, sits on the board of privately held equity fund Onexim Group. Charlier also serves as chairman of the board for the NBA’s soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets (currently the New Jersey Nets). As part of Charlier’s new investment, Pure Grass will collaborate with Le Castle on future productions, and the latter will take a co-producing credit on “Twist.” Le Castle’s recent docu, “Brooklyn Castle,” earned the audience award at this year’s SXSW fest. In 2008, Endemol U.K. spent about $2 million to acquire a 40% stake in Pure Grass, which specializes in branded online properties with mainstream spinoff potential. Ben and Tom Grass founded the company in 2005 and later produced horror series “Beyond the Rave,” which debuted on MySpace in 2008. Charlier’s investment represents the latest film coin to flow out of Russia, adding to recent activity from director Timur Bekmambetov, producer Alexander Rodnyansky and billionaire Len Blavatnik. “There’s a lot of very wealthy Russian investors coming to Hollywood,” Schuyler Moore, a partner at Stroock and Stroock who represents Rodnyansky, told Variety. “As opposed to other waves of financing, it’s (coming from) individuals, not companies.” Chinese and Indian money for foreign ventures often comes from large companies like DreamWorks investor Reliance or Chinese exhib Wanda, which is reportedly interested in investing in AMC Theaters. “Russia is into big-budget Hollywood fantasy films,” Moore said. “English-language films play around the world. (Russian investors) want to be part of the international milieu.” In January, Rodnyansky’s AR Films and Geyer Kosinski’s Media Talent Group partnered to form a $120 million fund to develop and produce up to six movies in the U.S. over the next two years. Bekmambetov, the director behind 20th Century Fox’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” has produced a number of English-language pics (Including “Lincoln” and “The Darkest Hour”) under his Moscow-based Bazelevs banner.