National Geographic’s feature film operation has reorganized, consolidating its existing partnership with Image Nation to include Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment.
The joint venture — to be headed by Amritraj and headquartered at Hyde Park’s Los Angeles offices — will produce National Geographic-branded films and other entertainment products.
The reorg, announced Thursday, resulted in the shuttering of Nat Geo’s New York and Beverly Hills offices and two layoffs, with National Geographic Feature Film topper Daniel Battsek segueing to a consulting role. Battsek, former Miramax Films topper, joined Nat Geo in March 2010 as a replacement for Adam Leipzig.
The reorg comes three years after National Geographic Films signed a joint venture with Image Nation Abu Dhabi to finance feature films, committing $100 million for 10-15 features over five years. Image Nation also formed a separate production partnership with Hyde Park in 2009.
National Geographic is best known on the film side for co-presenting 2005 doc “March of the Penguins,” which grossed more than $77 million in the U.S. The new venture will develop features as well as docus and TV series.
“We like Hyde Park’s approach to the business, their growth and success in Asia, and the fact that Ashok and his team are already working closely with our partner, Image Nation,” said Tim Kelly, president of National Geographic Society, in a statement Thursday. “This partnership makes sense from all angles, and by folding our current feature film effort into this new venture, we will be able to pursue bigger, more ambitious projects and expand into growing markets like India and China.”
Imagenation Abu Dhabi chair Mohamed Al Mubarak said Thursday, “This venture will advance our relationship with both Hyde Park and National Geographic. At the same time it will provide another great opportunity for young Emirati filmmakers to gain real world, hands-on experience that will help build their personal/professional networks.”
Amritraj said Hyde Park and National Geographic have had a close relationship with Image Nation over the years. “By aligning the two brands, we create a dynamic venture that will deliver high-quality entertainment to audiences around the world,” he said.
Hyde Park Intl. will be the worldwide sales rep.
The three-year-old partnership with Image Nation gave Nat Geo the resources to acquire and distribute arthouse and world film titles along with producing its own films. The first film from the joint venture was Peter Weir’s “The Way Back,” based on the true story of soldiers’ escape from a Siberian gulag, with worldwide grosses of about $25 million.
National Geographic Cinema Ventures distributed the Afghanistan war documentary “Restrepo.” Nat Geo produced and distribbed “The Last Lions” this year with domestic gross of $635,000.
Hyde Park and Image Nation Abu Dhabi partnered on a $250 million financing deal in 2009 to develop, produce and distribute feature films and extended their partnership to create a strategic alliance with Singapore’s Media Development Authority. Under the latter deal, Hyde Park-Image Nation Singapore was launched in 2010 to fund multiple films worth an estimated production value of $75 million.
The Hyde Park-Image Nation partnership is in post-production on “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” with Sony handling the worldwide release on Feb. 17.