Mandalay goes big

Guber's company invests in three large-format films

Peter Guber’s Mandalay Media Arts, which recently wrapped production on the 3-D large-format film “Galapagos” for the Smithsonian Institution, is putting its faith in the giant screen industry and embarking on independent production of its own projects.

The company is developing three large-format film projects, along with veteran underwater director/cinematographer Al Giddings (“The Abyss,” “For Your Eyes Only”) and Australian director/producer Michael Caulfield, who produced and directed the recent large-format pic “Africa’s Elephant Kingdom” for Discovery Channel Pictures.

The projects are as follows:

  • “Truk Lagoon” (3-D), being developed by Giddings. Pic centers on the tropical lagoon, the site of a major Allied bombing mission during WWII that sunk some 56 Japanese cargo ships, which now support a thriving coral reef teaming with life. The film will attempt to show how the devastation of war can sometimes have a positive impact on other forms of life.

  • “Equus” (2-D), being developed by Caulfield, who will also direct. Pic will deal with the mystique of the horse, from wild horses to race horses. The film is also being co-developed by Beyond Prods., a major Australian production and distribution company of dramatic and nonfiction TV shows and lower budget feature films.

  • “Carrier” (3-D), also being developed and directed by Caulfield and co-produced by Beyond Prods. Pic is about a day in the life of a U.S. Naval aircraft carrier. Mandalay is getting cooperation from the Navy, however, the project may have to be put on hold due to the current conflict in Yugoslavia. Pic will involve cameras mounted on and inside fighter planes.

Mandalay Media co-chairman Barry Clark said that his company “has a real enthusiasm both creatively and economically for large-format 3-D filmmaking.”

The $7 million “Galapagos” was more-or-less a work-for-hire, commissioned by the Smithsonian, unlike Mandalay’s new projects which will be independently developed and produced. The pic served as a valuable testing ground for the filmmakers as to what works and what doesn’t in the 3-D large-format medium.

Clark said that his company’s mission is to make 3-D economically viable. They hope to get 3-D films down to $6 million, a figure he sees as making economic sense given the current state of the giant screen industry.

Of the three projects, “Equus” is on the fastest track. Financing for each pic will combine investments from private sources, Mandalay itself and a distributor.

Executive producing credits will be divided between Mandalay and Beyond Prods. Guber is involved creatively to the extent that Mandalay is acting as a defecit financier.

Mandalay is currently in post-production on “Galapagos” and is aiming to have a cut ready for the Giant Screen Theater Assn. conference in September and a final cut ready for an October release at the Smithsonian Imax theater in Washington, D.C.