Cinterenta plan eyes $80 mil pic investment

Fund makes use of private German backers

One year after the Babelsberg-based Cinerenta film fund was reactivated, newly appointed managing director Rainer Bienger says he will raise $80 million for film production investment this year and more than $100 million in 1999.

The fund makes use of private German backers who can write off their investment against taxes. Cash raised in any one year has to be invested in film production in the same fiscal year for the backers to get their tax break.

Between 1974 and 1982, Cinerenta backed a wad of U.S. pics, including Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Kramer vs Kramer,” “All That Jazz” and “Blue Lagoon.” The fund fell into disuse following German tax law changes in 1982.

Those changes coincided with Coca Cola’s acquisition of Columbia — which had accessed the German coin on several occasions. “Coca Cola seemed to say they didn’t need German money to make films,” Bienger says.

Kick-started again last year, Cinerenta raised $12 million, co-producing James Cellan Jones’ Brit comedy “Married 2 Malcolm.” The film stars Mark Addy (“The Full Monty”) as a Blackpool cabbie trying to keep his taxi and his two lady loves on the road at the same time.

The second project is Gregory Marquette’s $8 million Canadian thriller “Dark Summer,” which is currently casting and set to shoot in June.

Both “Married 2 Malcolm” and “Dark Summer” are being sold internationally by Marie Hoy Films.

Third film in which Cinerenta will put money is Scott Elliot’s $13 million “A Map of the World,” starring Frances McDormand, Andie MacDowell and David Strathairn. Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are producing the pic, which is based on Jane Hamilton’s bestseller of the same name.

Overseas Filmgroup is handling international sales and the pic is set to start shooting in late July. According to Rainer Bienger, Cinerenta could put up about half the budget.

Bienger, who came to Cinerenta after spells at the Bertelsmann group’s Ufa film and television division and Hamburg-based Connexion Film, won’t put a figure on the number of projects he will back in one year.

“The key is that the investment raised in 1998 must be spent in 1998, but at the moment I have more projects in mind than I can finance, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Basic requirements for attracting Cinerenta cash is that projects have to be feature films, destined for the international market and primarily shot in English.