×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kevin Spacey, Dana Brunetti Set to Run Relativity for Ryan Kavanaugh

In a blockbuster move intended to resurrect his bankrupt company, Relativity Media CEO Ryan Kavanaugh has reached an agreement to have Kevin Spacey and the actor’s producing partner, Dana Brunetti, run Relativity’s beleaguered studio, the company confirmed late Wednesday.

The deal brings Relativity not only the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actor and his long-time business partner, but also their Trigger Street Productions, producer of “House of Cards.” The acquisition of the production company and its star founder marks a major coup for Kavanaugh, who could not prevent his company from sliding into Chapter 11 bankruptcy five months ago.

Relativity has been fighting to raise $100 million in new capital to help complete a reorganization that would revive the moribund movie unit. An alliance of senior creditors has already taken over the company’s television operation. A U.S. bankruptcy court judge is scheduled to consider Kavanaugh’s reorganization plan on Feb. 1.

Spacey will become chairman of Relativity Studios and Brunetti president as of mid-February, according to the announcement. The duo will oversee all creative content and film production for the company. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“I am thrilled to welcome Kevin and Dana to Relativity,” Kavanaugh said in a statement.  “Kevin’s incredible creative success as a two-time Academy Award winner and star and producer of the critically acclaimed ‘House of Cards’ speaks for itself. Dana has remarkable instincts and an impressive track record of producing films such as ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and ‘Captain Phillips.’ Both men share my passion for film and Relativity’s unique 360-degree content engine, and I could not be more excited to partner with such talented professionals.”

Kavanaugh’s reputation has taken a beating in the months leading up to a July 30 bankruptcy filing and since then, as his company registered liabilities of $1.2 billion and assets of $560 million. One financial partner accused him of fraud and a major producer, Neal Moritz, also briefly charged Kavanaugh with misleading him into making a movie deal, before later revoking his accusation.  Kavanaugh has denied the allegations against him and responded that his company was the victim of one-time allies who tried to undermine him to take control of Relativity.

Spacey’s own statement acknowledged that many would be stunned by the news he was joining the company.

“They thought we were crazy when we chose to do ‘House of Cards’ with an online streaming service; they thought I was crazy when I went to run the Old Vic Theatre when no one thought it could be saved; and this move with Relativity will be proof for some that we really are crazy,” Spacey said. But he called the move “an incredible opportunity to make great entertainment” and said he considered it the “next evolution in my career.”

“Having run an independent production company to now be able to run a studio is a great challenge,” Spacey said, “and I’ve learned that in the end it’s the risk-takers that are rewarded.”

Brunetti said Relativity would work to differentiate itself from other filmmakers. “While other studios are focusing on tentpoles and franchises, there is a void with an eager audience for films that are character driven with great storytelling that can be made at a reasonable budget,” Brunetti said in a statement. “Being a disruptor at heart, I look forward to the opportunities that being inside a studio system will present.”

Casting  a marquee actor-producer duo in executive leadership roles is unusual in Hollywood, though not unprecedented. Tom Cruise and his longtime producing partner Paula Wagner were recruited to run United Artists in 2006 in what was billed as a boon to the actor’s then-lagging career. But the duo’s initial films did not win over audiences and parent company MGM ran into problems financing its own productions. As MGM backed off its commitment to United Artists, Wagner and Cruise split in pursuit of their own projects.

Kavanaugh had been looking for weeks for new executives to replace the top managers, including president Tucker Tooley, who left the company last year.

Spacey, who had been best known for his powerhouse work in films such as “American Beauty” (for which he won a lead actor Oscar) and “The Usual Suspects” (for which he scored a supporting actor Oscar), is now also a celebrated TV star for his turn as President Francis Underwood on “House of Cards.” Along with Brunetti, he has also been a producer known for embracing digital innovation, like an online platform offering feedback for screenwriters, as well as for backing a series of acclaimed films, including “The Social Network,” “Captain Phillips” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

A move to Relativity could give the star and his producing partner a larger platform for launching projects. It would help reestablish a measure of credibility for Kavanaugh’s film operation, which has been battered by a series of lackluster films and a financial meltdown that has delayed the release of many others. A Spacey-Brunetti combination at Relativity would presumably help resolve some of the issues the mini-studio might otherwise have in luring talent to embark on new movies.

Brunetti has worked with Relativity in the past — reaching an accord a year ago to make a movie about the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, an episode that claimed the lives of four Americans and raised a political furor over the American response. The studio bought story rights from some of the principals on the scene of the debacle. The project is separate from the soon-to-be released “13 Hours,” another Benghazi-themed film, from Paramount.

Brunetti, it is fair to assume, also will want to continue as the producer of the lucrative “Fifty Shades of Grey” movies.

Spacey appeared at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday to talk about the intersection of storytelling and technology. He made no mention of the impending deal with Relativity.

Season four of “House of Cards” will premiere on March 6.

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report. 

More Biz

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    'Leaving Neverland' Lawsuit Proves to Be a Judicial Hot Potato

    The Michael Jackson estate sued HBO last month for airing the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which accuses the late King of Pop of serial child sexual abuse. Since then, the case has had a difficult time finding a judge to handle it. Three federal judges have recused themselves in the last week, citing potential financial conflicts [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Guy Oseary’s New Zealand Fundraiser Nears $150,000, Continues Raising Money

    In the wake of the horrific shootings at New Zealand mosques last week that killed some 49 people, Maverick chief Guy Oseary launched a GoFundMe campaign to “support those affected by this tragedy at this very difficult time,” and began it with an $18,000 donation. Boosted by donations from many celebrities — including Amy Schumer, [...]

  • Cesar Sayoc Headshot

    Florida Man Pleads Guilty in CNN Pipe Bomb Case

    A Florida man pleaded guilty Thursday to sending pipe bombs to CNN and prominent critics of President Donald Trump. Cesar Sayoc appeared in federal court in New York, where he pleaded to 65 counts stemming from the mailing of 16 devices. He faces life in prison, plus 120 months, at his sentencing on Sept. 12. [...]

  • Tencent Profits Hit $1 Billion Per

    Tencent Profits Hit $1 Billion per Month as Company Loses Fizz

    Growing regulatory encroachments into its games business, a smaller than expected spin-off for its music division, and a fourth quarter profits drop, pointed to a troubling year for Chinese tech giant Tencent. Its financial results for the full 2018 period, while delivering profits of nearly $1 billion a month, appeared to bear out that thesis. [...]

  • splice

    Splice Raises $57.5 Million in Latest Funding Round

    Splice, a favorite of music creators that allows access to a library of three million rights-cleared sounds, announced today that the company closed a Series C funding round at $57.5 million. That brings Splice’s total amount raised to roughly $102 million since its launch in 2013. It raised a Series B in November of 2017. [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    WGA Leaders to Meet With Showrunners on Agency Packaging Fight (EXCLUSIVE)

    WGA leaders are set to meet Wednesday night with a group of showrunners who are raising concerns about the guild’s handling of negotiations with talent agents over the issue of packaging fees and agency-affiliated productions. The meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. at WGA West headquarters. WGA West president David Goodman is expected to attend. [...]

  • Bill Murray St Vincent 2014

    Weinstein Co. Sued Over Trademark Infringement in Bill Murray Film

    A horse-racing announcer has sued the Weinstein Co., claiming that the company infringed on his trademarked phrase in a 2014 Bill Murray movie. Dave Johnson is the man behind “And down the stretch they come!,” which he began using while calling races in Illinois in the 1960s. The phrase took off when Johnson moved to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content