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Winchester fires up fund

Bank remains anonymous, coin to cut paperwork for projects

HOLLYWOOD — U.K.- and U.S.-based production, financing and sales outfit Winchester Entertainment unveiled Monday a new revolving fund to provide up to $30 million in project pre-production costs annually.

Execs declined to name the bank that’s helping to finance the fund. About 50% of the coin will come from publicly traded Winchester’s own capital resources, CEO Gary Smith noted.

The pre-production fund will facilitate project bridge loans pending principal photography, when separate production funding becomes available, Smith explained.

As part of the new venture, Winchester will commit up to $2 million per production on films budgeted in the $3 million-$20 million range with funding based on key elements –including the commitment of talent, producer and director to the project. Upcoming Winchester projects include Michael Caine/Bob Hoskins starrer “Last Orders” and the animated “Christmas Carol: The Movie,” featuring the voices of Kate Winslet, Simon Callow and Nicolas Cage.

Winchester has built up its Hollywood presence with deals involving the Donner Co., MGM and Wind Dancer. Company is expected to co-finance a slate of films using off-balance sheet financing of up to $750 million over the next four years.

Winchester sealed an exclusive three-year deal with Wind Dancer in January to provide development and arrange financing for Wind Dancer titles; Wind Dancer is responsible for overhead for its offices in New York and Hollywood (Daily Variety, Jan. 9).

In May, Winchester closed a three year overall deal with the Donner Co. to develop and produce a slate of films. Winchester will include overhead and development funding for the Donners to begin aggressively acquiring books and scripts (Daily Variety, May 14).

Coin open to all

Though Donner and Wind Dancer will be able to access the new pre-production fund, the coin is open to all proven producers in the U.S. and the U.K. Winchester is still committed to raising separate funds to be used by Donner and Wind Dancer.

“This is pre-production money we expect will be returned within three months, and we are currently negotiating with a couple of banks to set it up,” Smith said. “The fund is intended to be used by proven producers in the U.K. and U.S. offering them a new service which will eliminate the hold-up between a producer having all the financing in place for a production and all the talent but being held up by the time it takes the bank and the bond company to complete their respective paperwork for a given project.”

Hadeel Reda, L.A.-based president of Winchester Films, emphasized that the fund is intended to make the company a one-stop shop for producers looking for development, pre-production and production financing, as well as worldwide sales and U.K. distribution.

The fund will be managed through both the L.A. and U.K. offices and will not be conditional on producers appointing Winchester a sales agent for the projects that access the fund.

15 pix per year

The pre-production fund, according to Smith and Reda, will be able to finance up to 15 productions a year, with an expected six in its first year of operation.

Separately, Winchester released year-end financial results through March 31, showing a 113% boost in pre-tax profit to $2.3 million.

Annual revenue increased fourfold to $14.8 million.

(Carl DiOrio contributed to this report.)