The road to Hollywood is paved with rich civilians who wanted into the film biz. Following are some of the most prominent of the last few decaes.
Financier: Melvin Simon
Film company: Melvin Simon Prods. (1977-1985)
Money source: Real estate developer Simon Property Group, Indianapolis
Fantasy: Use his millions to make movies he liked.
Reality: After producing more than a dozen pics like “Somebody Killed Her Husband” and “Zorro, the Gay Blade,” Simon hit paydirt with teen sex comedy “Porky’s” (and its two sequels). Then Simon took his winnings and walked away.
Today: Now 78, Simon is worth $850 million and continues to head Simon Property Group, which owns more than 13% of the retail space in the U.S.
Financier: Francis Bouygues
Film company: Ciby 2000 (1990-1998)
Money source: Paris industrial consortium Bouygues
Fantasy: Create a French studio that can produce American blockbusters.
Reality: Betting on directors like Pedro Almodovar (“Live Flesh”), Robert Altman (“Kansas City”), and Mike Leigh (“Secrets & Lies”) made Ciby 2000 a favorite with filmmakers, not with the masses.
Today: The Bouygues corporation remains a major force in the French economy, but film interests are limited to TF1 and a joint distribution venture with Miramax Films.
Financier: James Robinson
Film company: Morgan Creek Prods. (1987-present)
Money source: Baltimore car dealerships and other real estate holdings
Fantasy: Turn Morgan Creek into a 30-acre studio in the San Fernando Valley.
Reality: Morgan Creek’s last big hit was in 1995 “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.”
Today: Morgan Creek maintains a distribution deal through Warner Bros. Pictures. Upcoming is “Exorcist IV: The Beginning.”
Financier: Sir Richard Branson
Film company: Palace Pictures (1982-1992)
Money source: Virgin Group, London
Fantasy: Three pics a year, with two produced in London and one in the U.S.
Reality: Branson was the last investor in Palace, which produced pics like “The Crying Game.” When Branson stepped out, bankruptcy followed.
Today: Branson remains chairman of Virgin Group, which includes planes, financial services, music stores, cinemas, telephones and cola — but not movies.