Canton Co., WB on ticket with Germany’s Senator

Partners to produce four to six pix annually

In a deal that includes a five-year renewal for the Canton Co.’s first-look pact at Warner Bros. Pictures, producer Mark Canton has formed a joint-venture production and financing outfit with German entertainment and exhibition company Senator.

The joint venture, in which Senator holds the majority stake, will develop and finance four to six titles annually, with Warners serving as a co-financing and distribution partner on a first-look basis.

Insiders said Senator holds 51% of the new company, with Canton retaining 49% as well as gross participation in the joint venture’s projects. Films will be jointly greenlit by Senator, Canton and, on those projects in which the studio participates, Warners. In those cases, the studio will distribute worldwide, with Senator retaining exclusive distribution rights in Germany, China, Eastern Europe and other foreign territories.

“We’re very excited about this new arrangement,” Warners president and chief operating officer Alan Horn said. “This is one of those unique win-win situations — it expands our relationship with Mark, giving him more creative autonomy than in a traditional production deal, while enhancing our relationship with an important European partner.”

Said Canton: “This allows me to play to my capacity. We’re a fully funded company with a great deal of independence, (but) we couldn’t have done it without the enthusiastic support of Barry (Meyer), Alan (Horn) and Lorenzo (di Bonaventura), who have afforded us the opportunity to strike a deal that will pay substantial dividends to us all.”

In the pipeline

Later this year, the Canton Co. will roll out the Val Kilmer starrer “Red Planet,” which the company co-financed with Village Roadshow, and “Get Carter,” which was backed by Franchise Pictures. Also upcoming is another Canton/Franchise co-production, “Angel Eyes,” starring Jennifer Lopez.

In development at the Canton Co. are “Revelation,” a co-production with Jersey Films that stars Danny DeVito; “Taking Lives,” a co-production with Village Roadshow, with Tony Scott attached to direct; “Bad Cop — Worse Cop,” a live-action/animation pic to be directed by Brian Levant, based on Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes character the Tasmanian Devil; “Top Ten,” an action thriller that Bel-Air will co-produce; “7th Portal,” for Stan Lee Media; and “Bonjour Homicide,” for French helmer Luc Besson to direct.

This is Senator Entertainment’s second U.S. pact in recent months, after its output deal with Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios.

Broader reach

Deal confirms a new direction for the German producer behind such local pics as Dietrich biopic “Marlene,” “Comedian Harmonists” and last year’s Berlinale opener “Aimee & Jaguar.” Since going public in February 1999, Senator, which is listed on Germany’s Neuer Markt exchange, has been on a rapid international expansion course.

Senator also has a London-based production and sales house, Amberlon Pictures, and a joint venture with partners Eric Plescow and Leon De Winter. Also, it has a 14-picture co-financing deal with the U.K.’s FilmFour.

In addition, Senator recently found a new stomping ground in the German exhibition sector, taking a 25% stake in leading multiplex operator CinemaxX, which holds 10% in rival group Ufa, giving it a strong foothold in Europe.

Brokering the deal were William Morris Agency president and co-CEO Jim Wiatt and WMA Independent co-head Rena Ronson. Jake Bloom and Steven Brookman and Bloom, Hergott, Diemer and Cook repped Canton Co., with Senator handled by Craig Jacobson and Tom McGuire of Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman & Warren.