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$250 million will light Beacon’s prod’n slate

Mouse-backed prod'n co. has five-year deal

Beacon Pictures has closed on a $250 million credit facility. That’s one of the largest fundings of an independent film company in recent years.

Financing kickstarts the shingle at Disney which inked the deal to bring in a heavyweight production and co-financing entity to bolster its slate.

Beacon chairman Armyan Bernstein, a writer by trade who became a heavyweight producer, has been responsible for such hits as the Harrison Ford starrer “Air Force One,” and the Denzel Washington starrer “The Hurricane,” amongst others.

Led by JPMorgan with a consortium of other lenders, the facility wraps around other financing of the Santa Monica-based film company’s output deal with Disney and funds a five-year slate of 25 pics.

“We’ve done a lot of business in the past with several of the banks involved in the transaction, and we’re thrilled to now have them participate in an overall financing deal for our company. We’re now in a perfect position to proceed with our plans to make four to five films a year,” Bernstein said.

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“This completes the final piece of our financing puzzle,” Beacon CEO Charlie Lyons said. “It’s 100% dedicated to film with the ability to extend this to a creation of a TV company.”

Beacon’s recent film investments include partnering with TIG Prods., Jake Eberts and Touchstone Pictures on summer Western “Open Range.”

Through the facility, it is also a co-financing partner with Disney on upcoming pics “Raising Helen,” a Kate Hudson starrer helmed by Garry Marshall, and “Ladder 49,” directed by Jay Russell and starring Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta. New facility also will co-finance Beacon’s upcoming Nigel Cole romantic comedy “A Lot Like Love.”

Beacon struck a five-year production, co-financing and distribution deal with the Mouse in December.

Non-exclusive arrangement features worldwide theatrical distribbing of Beacon pics by Disney, excluding Italy, France and Japan and free TV.

JPMorgan led a consortium of 14 lenders on the Beacon funding. The 13-year-old film company originally aimed to raise $150 million but added another $100 million to its financial syndication amid strong demand by lenders, officials said.

“This is a terrific consortium of A-level banks,” said John Miller, managing director at JPMorgan Securities.

Other lenders in the consortium include Comerica, Union Bank of California, City National Bank, Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, ING Capital, U.S. Bank National Assn., Vereins-Und Westbank, Fleet National, HSBC, Citibank West, Manufacturers and Israel Discount Bank of New York.

Beacon chief operating officer Michael Helfant negotiated and managed the transaction on behalf of the film company.

“We look forward to a great relationship with JPMorgan and all of the participating banks,” Helfant said.

Also participating in the transaction along with Miller were JPMorgan’s Clark Hallren, David Shaheen and Alexandra Bratman.

Since its inception in 1990, Beacon has produced and co-financed pics including Alan Parker’s “The Commitments,” Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer “End of Days,” Kevin Costner pic “Thirteen Days” and the Robert Redford/Brad Pitt film “Spy Game.”

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