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Panavision hones its focus

Coin to give company an upgrade

Ron Perelman’s Panavision is turning its lens to the future, nabbing $345 million in a credit facility that will enable it to make ambitious equipment upgrades as well as acquisitions.

Credit line from Bear Stearns and Credit Suisse will be used mainly to finance debt.

Panavision has long been the dominant provider of camera equipment to TV and film production companies, establishing its position by owning nearly all its equipment and renting to film crews. Company generated revenue of $233 million in fiscal 2005 but saw a net loss of $24 million, according to SEC filings.

Perelman took control of Panavision eight years ago through his Mafco Holdings subsidiary. He now controls most of the shares of Panavision and is co-chair of the company’s board.

Panavision chief financial officer Ross Landsbaum said money would help the company add more high-definition Genesis cameras. Touted system has been used to lense several recent pics, including last weekend’s B.O. champ “Scary Movie 4” and Warner Bros.’ upcoming “Superman Returns.”

Among improvements the money will enable are quicker dailies and more efficient running of cameras, insiders said.

Landsbaum also cited “global acquisitions” as a possible use for the coin.

Credit line comes as exhibitors have been working to outfit theaters with digital capabilities, hoping that slicker technology will bring in larger auds.

Though neither Bear Stearns nor Credit Suisse will take a stake in Panavision, move reflects the increased convergence between Wall Street money and the film biz. Over the past year, hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed from hedge funds and private investors, helping to fund pics at Warner Bros., Marvel and elsewhere.

Landsbaum attributed Panavision’s ramp-up to increased demand for film production in North America as well as global TV lensing.

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