Butan new bigwig at 2929 Prods.

Exec to aid in developing projects in $10 mil-$30 mil range

Former Lions Gate executive vice president Marc Butan has been appointed head of 2929 Prods., the film-producing and -financing venture founded last year by partners Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban.

That duo is getting aggressive in the film production game after making several key strategic acquisitions last year through their parent company, 2929 Entertainment.

Wagner and Cuban last year acquired the Landmark Theater arthouse chain, launched HDNet Films to make low-budget films and acquired Magnolia Pictures Distribution.

They got started in films by co-financing and co-producing with Section Eight “The Criminal” and “The Jacket,” both to be distributed by Warner Independent, and “Godsend,” starring Robert De Niro and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. Latter film will be released by Lions Gate in April.

It was the working experience on “Godsend” that led 2929 Entertainment CEO Wagner to offer Butan the job. Butan, who’d spent three years at Lions Gate, left six weeks ago to take the 2929 post.

Butan and Wagner will develop projects in the $10 million-$30 million range, and Wagner said 2929 will partner on each film with a studio. They’ll split costs and pay a distribution fee to ensure a studio has incentive to market the films. Wagner will also provide equity financing for projects 2929 did not generate, when it makes sense to do so.

“We have deliberately taken our time, looking to be opportunistic,” Wagner said. “We won’t look to make a deal with one studio, because we want to work with several different ones and see which does the best job.”

Wagner and Cuban come to film after making their fortunes co-founding Broadcast.com and cashing out with a sale to Yahoo! in 1999.

While Cuban has subsequently developed a higher profile because he became the vocal owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Wagner’s entry into showbiz has been comparatively low-key, laying the groundwork for a diversified entertainment company.

Company also owns Rysher Entertainment, which brought 2929 a library of titles and syndication rights to TV shows like “Hogan’s Heroes,” “Sex and the City” and “Star Search,” including a new version of the latter show that currently airs on CBS. Company also owns HDNet, the hi-def TV network co-founded by Cuban.

Wagner feels it’s time to make movies. “I went into this business thinking this is what I will want to do for the next 10 years,” Wagner said. “I was in no hurry to plop down money to make big movies, because that is a mistake many have made and paid for.”

Wagner has set up headquarters in Santa Monica and hopes within the next three years to be making three to seven low-budget pics through HDNet Films, making up to three self-generated features with studio partners and staking three to five other films a year.