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Vantage, Morgan Stanley unite

$150 million deal will cover 15 movies

Paramount Vantage and Morgan Stanley have announced the creation of Marathon Funding, a $150 million fund that will invest in at least 15 films.

Under the terms of the slate deal, Vantage and Morgan Stanley will be co-financing partners. Pact is retroactive; fund covered part of the financing for Golden Globe winner “Babel.”

Fund will finance all 10 films on Vantage’s 2007 slate, including Michael Winterbottom’s Angelina Jolie starrer “A Mighty Heart,” Sean Penn’s directorial effort “Into the Wild” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood.”

Deal marks the first time a studio specialty arm has inked a slate financing deal; every major studio has previously done so.

Indie studio Lionsgate is in the midst of wrapping a $210 million slate financing deal led by Goldman Sachs.

Vantage, refashioned over the past year under John Lesher and his team — the newest member being co-prexy Nick Meyer, former president of Lionsgate Intl. — has been especially aggressive in pic production. If a movie goes over Vantage’s $15 million budget cap, the unit will seek outside financing.

Marathon fund would allow Vantage to go above the cap, in addition to co-financing pics costing less than $15 million.

Earlier this month, Paramount chairman-CEO Brad Grey announced a restructuring of the studio that has each of its four labels — Par proper, Vantage, DreamWorks and MTV Films/Nick Movies — feeding the pipeline. Vantage will be the biggest provider.

“We are excited to have a partner who is coming in at the beginning of the adventure of Paramount Vantage and will help us as we grow our business and extend our brand on a global level,” Lesher and Meyer said.

Morgan Stanley exec director Christine Lavelle said Marathon will allow Vantage to “expand its franchise and continue to produce quality, award-winning films such as ‘Babel.'”

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