New Line, Woods in Independent pact

Mini-major places $10 mil on table in deal

NEW YORK — “Kids” producer Cary Woods has lined up $30 million in equity, including $15 million from a Middle Eastern financier and $10 million from New Line Cinema, to fund his new Gotham-based production company Independent Pictures.

Independent has signed a five-year agreement giving New Line North American theatrical, homevideo, cable, TV and syndication rights to a minimum of four pictures a year. Under the pact, Independent retains foreign rights to its films and will control how its releases are marketed.

“This is not a first-look deal,” New Line prexy Michael Lynne told Daily Variety. “It’s a different kind of animal. It gives Cary the freedom to follow his instincts but gives New Line the opportunity to participate in Independent Pictures’ financial success.”

Independent covers P&A

Independent will finance the marketing for its pics, including all prints and advertising costs, Lynne said.

The deal resembles the New Regency and Morgan Creek pacts that Warner Bros. once negotiated. It marks New Line’s first investment in another company’s feature slate, although it owned 50% of Robert Halmi’s RHI Entertainment before it was sold to Hallmark.

Independent Pictures is currently negotiating a credit line with a commercial bank that would increase its total capital to a minimum of $100 million. Woods said that the total capitalization of Independent Pictures could be even higher, including the value of unsold foreign rights.

Four to six per year

Independent Pictures will produce and acquire four to six films a year with budgets of up to $15 million. It expects to release between six and eight films annually, most of which will be distributed through New Line’s arthouse banner, Fine Line Features.

Although Independent Pictures will be based in New York, it will also have a Los Angeles office.

Woods formed Independent Pictures in early 1997, shortly after his three-year agreement with Miramax expired. During his tenure at Miramax, Woods served as a producer on eight films, including “Swingers,” “Cop Land” and “Scream,” the genre thriller that grossed more than $100 million.

Since parting ways with Miramax, Woods served as co-exec producer on Sony’s summer event pic “Godzilla” and produced Harmony Korine’s edgy debut “Gummo,” a Fine Line release.

“Fine Line’s affiliation with Cary further solidifies our presence in the independent film arena,” said Fine Line prexy Mark Ordesky. “We have worked with Cary in the past and he has proven himself to be a top-notch producer with a keen sensibility for visionary talent and what works in the marketplace.”

Woods said that he was approached by New Line chairman Robert Shaye not long after he formed Independent Pictures, but they both agreed that Independent should raise capital before forming an alliance with New Line, a division of Time Warner Inc.

$4 mil from private parties

In addition to the $15 million from the Middle Eastern financier and the $10 million from New Line, private investors put close to $4 million into Independent Pictures. Industry sources estimated that Woods invested nearly $1 million of his own money. He declined to comment.

Woods began his career as an agent at the William Morris Agency, where he represented such clients as Tim Robbins, Uma Thurman and Sandra Bernhard. He later served as VP in the office of the chairman under Peter Guber and Jon Peters at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

James Janowitz of the New York law firm Pryor, Cashman, Sherman & Flynn acted as adviser and counsel to Independent Pictures. Furman Selz LLC, Salem Partner LLC and Allen Shapiro acted as financial advisers to the company. Ben Zinkin, Jim Rosenthal and Jane Williams brokered the deal on behalf of New Line.