New focus on co-production. co-finance of commercial indie pics

Nearly five months after Icon shuttered its U.K. distribution and sales arm and tapped Aviv Giladi as CEO of the company, the downsized outfit has hit Cannes with a new focus: co-production and co-finance of commercial indie pics.

Giladi, chairman of Israeli media company RGE Group and close confidant of Access Industries’ Len Blavatnik, who bought Icon U.K. in November 2009, has been in the South of France with Icon U.K. project finance director Vince Holden to meet and greet industryites and talk about what they describe as “the new and improved” Icon.

The first film to come through the refocused banner is Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” starring Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda and John Cusack, that Stuart Ford’s IM Global is selling in Cannes.

While Giladi didn’t give specifics on how much Icon invested in the pic, he did say it’s a “substantial piece of the budget.”

Additionally, Icon is in the early stages on a low-budget teen comedy with FilmNation’s Glen Basner, with Icon fronting 50% of the budget.

“I don’t care if we do one project a year or five,” Giladi said. “I don’t have a number of how much I want to spend in films. But I can tell you that if we smell a project that we love and it makes economical sense, we will have the money to back it. The money is not the issue.”

But it’s clear that the new Icon isn’t interested in just providing coin for gap financing and it doesn’t want to be a silent investor.

“We have to be in a position at the front where our voice will be heard,” Giladi said.

While Icon, which for now is based in London and has 17 staffers left, is out of the distribution and sales arena, it is still capable of acquiring product and it will be able to distribute pics in Blighty via a partnership with Lionsgate U.K.

“We’re relying on the Lionsgate machinery to distribute a film,” Holden said. “The beauty of it is that we no longer have the monster to feed so we don’t have to rush to market and buy a film a month to release. We can sit on our hat or we can buy 12 films a year. We’re not forced.”

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