Imagenation, Amritraj pact for pics

Duo ink $250 million deal for 20 features

Abu Dhabi’s production banner Imagenation has inked a $250 million deal with Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment to develop, produce and distribute up to 20 feature films over seven years.

The joint venture will fund English-language fare with global appeal. There will also be additional coin allocated to lower-budget, local-language fare in both Arabic and Hindi as well as projects with a cross-cultural approach .

Hyde Park exec veep Patrick Aiello will supervise creative affairs for the partnership, while Mimi Steinbauer, newly named prexy of Hyde Park Intl., will handle foreign sales for projects produced by the company. Stefan Brunner, Imagenation’s chief financial officer, will oversee the financial aspects of the joint venture.

The Imagenation-Hyde Park pact is the latest in a series of power moves by Abu Dhabi execs to turn the emirate into a global filmmaking and content creation hub.

As part of the deal, Hyde Park will open an office in Abu Dhabi’s multibillion-dollar media zone TwoFour54, which launched Oct. 12.

Only days after the $1 billion production banner Imagenation was itself launched by the Abu Dhabi Media Co. on the eve of the Toronto Film Festival, Imagenation inked a $250 million production deal with Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media on Sept. 10 to finance 15-18 features.

That was followed on Oct. 11 by the announcement of a $100 million joint venture with National Geographic to finance 10-15 features over the next five years.

“The deal with Hyde Park helps complete the circle for us,” said Imagenation chief exec Ed Borgerding. “Ashok brings with him that world cinema sensibility. He understands the business. He has a lot of relationships in India, he’s connected in Singapore. He’s Hollywood plus,” Borgerding added.

“Through partnerships like this one with Hyde Park, we can create feature films which open a window on Middle Eastern and Asian culture, enabling audiences around the world to look in and appreciate the region’s rich and increasingly dynamic heritage,” added Imagenation chairman Mohamed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei.

The deal also helps cement Amritraj’s position as a global film player.

In May, Hyde Park Entertainment launched a $70 million Singapore-based fund to complement the company’s Hyde Park Asia division. That fund may well now feed into the joint venture with Imagenation.

Hyde Park also has a three-picture deal with Adlabs Films, the movie arm of India’s most powerful entertainment conglom, Reliance Entertainment, and a separate deal for animation pictures with Kerala, India-based Toonz.

In the U.S., Hyde Park has a first-look production and distribution deal with 20th Century Fox. It is unclear at this stage whether any of the projects developed and produced with Imagenation would be included within Hyde Park’s relationship with Fox.

Hyde Park released the Don Cheadle starrer “Traitor” through Overture Films earlier this year and cross-cultural love story “The Other End of the Line” through MGM this past weekend.

“We intend to produce wonderful films that stretch from Hollywood to Asia, enabling us to foster a better understanding between the West, the Middle East and Asia,” Amritraj said.

Hyde Park and Imagenation execs are evaluating a number of projects for their newly formed partnership, with the first announcements expected in the new year.

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