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Jeff Sagansky-led film fund to invest in up to 16 movies [Updated]

August 2, 2011 |  1:46 pm

The Smurfs

Veteran media executive Jeff Sagansky and his partners are betting hundreds of millions of dollars on more than a dozen Hollywood "tentpoles."

Sagansky, a former top CBS and Sony Corp. executive, on Tuesday announced plans to invest in 12 to 16 big-budget studio releases over the next several years as part of a venture that launched last year but has recently been expanded.

The fund, called Hemisphere Tentpole Co-Financing Fund, is co-led by Jean-Luc De Fanti and Eli Baker. The three men also run a smaller media-investment firm, formerly called Winchester Capital Partners, that put money into the George Clooney film "The Men Who Stare at Goats" and the TNT television series "Leverage."

Hemisphere has already selected four movies in which it is making minority investments: Last week's Sony Pictures release "The Smurfs," which had a solid opening at the box office; December's Steven Spielberg-directed comic-strip adaptation, "The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn," from Paramount Pictures; next May's "Men in Black 3" from Sony Pictures; and "World War Z" starring Brad Pitt, which is to come out next year from Paramount Pictures.

Jeff Sagansky The firm is investing more than $200 million of equity in the four movies, the Hemisphere partners said. Its future financing will be a mix of equity, provided by investors including Toho-Towa Co. and Kadokawa Shoten of Japan and South Korea's Lotte Cinema, as well as bank debt being arranged by JP Morgan Chase.

Despite the ongoing decline in DVD sales, Sagansky said in an interview that he sees opportunity in the growth of foreign box office in countries such as Russia, China and Brazil, as well as in digital distribution. "We're looking for movies that can be seen by families and have lots of special effects, so there's a universal language," he said. "That's increasingly where all of the studios want to be, but the movies are very expensive, so they are happy to mitigate risk."

The amount of outside money available to co-finance studio movies has decreased in the last few years amid the economic downturn. That situation has started to turn around in the last year, however, with the launch of other ventures such as David Ellison's Skydance Productions, which is partnered with Paramount Pictures.

Unlike most film co-financing ventures, Hemisphere is not aligned with any particular studio, although three of its first four pictures are backed by Sony Pictures.

-- Ben Fritz

[Update, Aug. 3, 11:33 a.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Tom Cruise will star in "World War Z."]

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Jeff Sagansky stakes claim to new media future

Upper photo: A scene from "The Smurfs." Credit: Sony Pictures

Lower photo: Jeff Sagansky. Credit: Jeff Sagansky

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