Macquarie fund goes for new rounds

TV projects to see more coin; Money marked for 5 features

Aussie investment bank Macquarie has emerged as a key funder of broad, mainstream comedies Down Under.

It all started with a government-sanctioned pilot scheme that allowed public investors to get substantial tax write-offs for investments made to the pic fund. The two-year initiative, called Film License Investment Co. (FLIC), is now completed and under review.

Three pics funded by the FLIC scheme have been released. Crime comedy “Dirty Deeds,” whimsical comedy “The Nugget” and lawn-bowling laffer “Crackerjack” all preemed in 2002.

While the first to pics didn’t perform as well as expected (“Dirty Deeds” cost around $7 million and grossed $2.9 million theatrically in Oz; “The Nugget” cost at least three times its local $1 million gross), $2 million “Crackerjack” fared better with B.O. of $5 million.

“We’ll go into profit on “Crackerjack” in this territory,” says Macquarie’s Jennie Hughes. Good news, as the pic’s sales agent, Beyond, reports tepid interest internationally.

“When the figures were first done on ‘Dirty Deeds,’ ‘Crackerjack’ and ‘The Nugget’ the market was much more buoyant,” admits Hughes.

Consensus among key local sales agencies and investors is that foreign sales are integral to recouping investment on Australian films. But Macquarie has revised its expectations in this area, instituting a tighter model (with low, medium and high foreign revenue estimates) and is focusing on the local market.

“You have to make (films) for an Australian audience,” urges Hughes. “So you’re not exposed to the international market.”

Macquarie also offsets risk by partnering with other investors, including feevee channels, distributors, private financiers and key Aussie funder the Government’s Australian Film Finance Corp.

Macquarie’s recent public fundraisings, set up in tandem with Kerry Packer’s Nine Films and Television, followed up the pilot fund. The 2002 fund raised $12 million that flowed to TV series and movies including “Gettin’ Square.”

The Nine fund for 2003 is set to collect at least $12 million more. If the float is successful, coin will flow to several feature films and TV series.

Investors can receive up to a 100% tax deduction over time and are guaranteed 55% thanks to the licensing agreements in place with Nine and other distribution partners on the fund’s titles.

Most of the coin will flow to TV projects. The feature films are a sexy hook for investors and will feed Packer’s boutique Hoyts Distribution shingle. The titles include:

  • Fred Schepisi-penned “Hitches,” about two brothers hitch hiking to the Gold Coast for summer holidays.

  • Buddy-pic “You and Your Stupid Mate,” from producer-director Marc Gracie.

  • “The Extra,” a vehicle for comedian Jimeoin, from Ruby Entertainment’s Mark Ruse and Steve Luby.

  • Jonathan Teplitzky’s “Mondo,” about a guy who’s bankrupted.

  • John Polson’s “Mozart Maulers,” about music students.

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