Original idea for genre pix

Co. pacts with Newmarket to develop, produce, finance projects

Addressing what they see as a shortage of independent film financiers in the movie business, Neal Moritz’s Original Films and Newmarket Capital Group have pacted to develop, produce and finance a slate of genre films.

The newly inked, four-year joint venture — which will operate under the Original banner — is aimed at building a library by producing three or four films per year with budgets ranging from $5 million to $25 million. Newmarket is providing the $100 million line of credit from its sources. This facility, according to Moritz, also would be used to co-finance bigger-budgeted films produced through a major studio.

The first pic under the new arrangement is the $11 million “Cruel Inventions,” starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Christine Baranski, Swoosie Kurtz and Joshua Jackson. Roger Kumble wrote the modern-day interpretation of “Dangerous Liaisons” and also takes on helming chores. Pic goes before the cameras in April.

Col grabs global rights

Columbia picked up worldwide rights, excluding Japan, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, where distribution is handled by Summit Entertainment. Original has licensed the film to Columbia for 20 years.

Original Films’ intended distribution strategy follows a blueprint established by ventures such as Mandalay Entertainment and Cinergi Pictures, both of which have used Patrick Wachsberger’s Summit Entertainment to distribute their films in many international territories.

At this time the relationship between Original and Summit is informal, but principals didn’t rule out a more formalized arrangement in the near future.

Newmarket’s William Tyrer said Original “will do straight output deals in certain international territories where we will have strong relationships. The rest of the world will be handled by a sales company, although our domestic studio partner may take some international territories too.”

Talks for new studio

Original currently has a first-look deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment. That arrangement expires in October, and Moritz and Tyrer are currently in negotiations with several parties for a new domestic studio deal, which they expect will be finalized in a few weeks. Sony is understood to be one of the studios the now independently flush Original is talking with.

Moritz said he has several projects in development that may fall under this new deal, but won’t discuss them until a studio deal is secured.

With the Newmarket backing, Moritz said the intent behind the Original/Newmarket pact is to produce commercially viable genre films, which would fill a void left by the studios’ concentration on blockbuster pictures.

“The main emphasis of our new venture will be to create movies that appeal to the youth in all of us,” said Moritz, who most recently produced the teen horror pic “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”

“The industry is hungry for high-quality, smaller-budgeted genre films, and I am confident that with the backing of a solid, reputable company such as Newmarket Capital, we will succeed in this new venture.”

Original was formed in 1993 when feature producer Moritz teamed with commercial producer Bruce Mellon. Since then, the company has produced “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Volcano” and “Juice.” Upcoming projects include “The Rat Pack” for HBO; “I Know What You Did Last Summer II” for Sony; “Urban Legend” for Phoenix Pictures; “Witch Hunt” for MGM; and “Freelancer” for 20th Century Fox.

Newmarket is a Los Angeles-based investment group created in 1994 by former Lloyds Bank execs Tyrer and Chris Ball. The company was established to make investments in, and loans for, independent film projects utilizing their own capital re-sources. The firm provides funding for approximately 12 to 15 pics a year, with financing terms ranging from fully collateralized loans to 100% investments.

Recent Newmarket funded projects include Todd Haynes’ “Velvet Goldmine,” Gregg Araki’s latest film, “Splendor,” and Mike Figgis’ newest, “The Loss of Sexual Innocence.”