Entertainment Industry

Category: Relativity Media

Box Office: Navy SEALs take out Perry, Aniston, Seyfried

Act of Valor" dominated the weekend box office, opening to a solid $24.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Relativity MediaThis post has been updated. See the note below for details.

As Hollywood's A-listers prepare for the Academy Awards on Sunday, it was the Navy SEAL stars of the movie "Act of Valor" who dominated the box office.

The intense action movie opened to a solid $24.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Relativity Media, proving by far the most popular choice for audiences.

"Good Deeds," the latest movie from writer/director Tyler Perry, opened to $16 million. It's the second-smallest opening ever for the prolific filmmaker and actor, ahead of only 2007's "Daddy's Little Girls."

"Wanderlust," a new Judd Apatow-produced comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and the thriller "Gone" starring Amanda Seyfried were both flops, opening to just $6.6 million and $5 million, respectively.

"Act of Valor," which has won plaudits for its ultra-realistic action sequences that feature the SEAL stars in training exercises, was a big bet for Relativity. The financially struggling independent studio topped other bidders by paying $13.5 million for rights to the movie produced by production company Bandito Brothers. It also committed tens of millions of dollars to an extensive marketing campaign that included four ads in and around the Super Bowl and online material targeting video game players.

But the investment appears to be paying off, as box-office receipts came in at the high end of pre-release expectations. Just as important, audiences loved the film, giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That was not only true for men, who made up 71% of the audiences, but women. Strong word-of-mouth could help "Act of Valor"

Despite the softer-than-usual opening for "Good Deeds," distributor Lionsgate is optimistic the film will ultimately end up close to the average total gross for Perry's movies, about $50 million. The studio's executive vice president of distribution, David Spitz, noted that a higher-than-average Friday-to-Saturday box-office increase of 25%, plus an A CinemaScore, indicate that Perry's mostly female and African American fan base loved the movie.

The same can't be said for "Wanderlust," which had the second-lowest opening ever for a movie produced by comedy guru Apatow, ahead of the 2007 music parody "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." The film about an uptight Manhattan couple who move to a commune got a CinemaScore of B-. It was financed by Universal Pictures and a fund previously managed by Relativity for around $35 million.

The weak opening for "Gone" marks the second time in a row that a film released by Summit Entertainment has opened behind one from the studio that bought it in January, Lionsgate. Audiences didn't like the low-budget film, for which Summit acquired domestic distribution rights from financier Lakeshore Entertainment, giving it a CinemaScore of just C+ from its mostly female audience.

Also notable at this weekend's box office: The Channing Tatum-Rachel McAdams romantic drama "The Vow" took in $10 million and brought its total gross to more than $100 million, become the first movie released by Sony Pictures' Screen Gems genre label to do so.

The Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds thriller "Safe House," which also opened Feb. 10, is right behind at $98.1 million.

[Updated, 11:18 A.M., Feb. 26: It was a third movie that opened that weekend, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," which had the strongest performance. With ticket sales down only 32% compared with last weekend, it grossed $13.5 million, slightly more than "Safe House" or "The Vow." Its domestic total is now $76.7 million, while a strong overseas performance has helped it to a worldwide total of more than $235 million.

Liam Neeson thriller "The Grey" has become the first breakout hit from new studio Open Road Films, co-owned by theater chains AMC and Regal, surpassing $50 million this weekend.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic office, with international results when available, according to studio estimates:

Continue reading »

Relativity, Fortress sued by investor in Sony slate deal

Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Kevin James in "Grown Ups."

A film company that invested in a Sony Pictures co-financing fund arranged by Relativity Media is suing both Relativity and Wall Street giant Fortress Investment Group for fraud and breach of contract.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court by Aramid Entertainment Fund, claims the Sony fund, which provided more than $500 million in capital to co-finance movies since 2008, was shut down late last year in a manner that benefited both Fortress and Relativity but deprived Aramid of at least $44 million.

Aramid claims to have invested $22 million in the film-finance fund set up by Relativity, for which financing was arranged by Citi. The so-called "Beverly slate deal" allowed Relativity to choose from among most of Sony's productions to co-finance up to 45 movies over a five-year period. Films it has co-financed included the Adam Sandler comedy "Grown Ups" and the Kevin James comedy "Paul Blart: Mall Cop."

According to the suit, Fortress, an investment firm with more than $43 billion under management, was given access to Aramid's private financial information, including details of the Beverly slate arrangement, in order to consider buying some of the film company's assets. The two firms did not end up making a deal, but Aramid alleges that Fortress improperly used that information to later buy into the Beverly deal.

Late last year, the lawsuit states, Fortress arranged to buy out Citi's interest in the Beverly slate, which was worth $226.7 million, for just $113.5 million, as the bank wanted to exit the movie deal. At the same time, Fortress is alleged to have convinced Sony Pictures to end the deal, which was supposed to allow Beverly to keep funding movies through 2013, in December 2011.

To end the deal early, Sony allegedly paid Beverly no more than $214 million, which the lawsuit claimed saved the studio up to $222 million in payments that would eventually be owed on the co-financed movies.

The arrangement allowed Fortress to make a gross profit of approximately $96.1 million, the suit claims.

In order to convince Relativity, which earned a producer fee of $1 million plus 2% of gross receipts for each co-financed movie, Fortress paid it $14.5 million late last year, the lawsuit claims. While that's allegedly $15 million to $30 million less than Relativity would have ultimately made under the deal, the independent studio, led by outspoken Chief Executive Ryan Kavanaugh, was under financial strain last year. Following several box-office disappointments, its relationship with former backer Elliott Management ended and it took out a loan from Colbeck Capital to continue operations.The lawsuit claims that Relativity had reached "functional insolvency [which] made Kavanaugh and Relativity particularly receptive to overtures from Fortress."

The lawsuit claims that Aramid was cut out and received no return on its original $22-million investment, which would have been worth at least $44 million if the Beverly fund had continued making movies. The suit claims that Relativity represented to Aramid throughout the fall that Beverly would co-finance several upcoming Sony films, including "21 Jump Street" and a new Adam Sandler comedy, "I Hate You Dad." Instead, Relativity was allegedly working with Fortress and Sony to end the Beverly deal early.

A spokesman for Fortress did not respond to a request for comment. Spokesmen for Relativity and Sony declined to comment.

Aramid was previously involved in litigation related to film investments made by financier David Bergstein and construction magnate Ron Tutor.

RELATED:

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Paramount Pictures sued by financing partner for fraud

Findings of probe into film financier David Bergstein briefly unsealed

— Ben Fritz

Photo: David Spade, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Kevin James in "Grown Ups." Credit: Tracey Bennett / Columbia Pictures

Relativity joins three other studios advertising on Super Bowl

Relativity Super Bowl film Act of Valor
Relativity Media will buy a commercial spot during the Super Bowl to advertise its military action film "Act of Valor," joining three of Hollywood's six major studios in buying costly promotional time during the most popular sporting event of the year.

Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures will also buy Super Bowl ad spots, knowledgeable people not authorized to speak publicly confirmed. Those studios have yet to announce the movies they will market during the game.

Likely candidates include their big-budget event films, including Disney's "John Carter," Paramount's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and Universal's "Battleship."

20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. are not participating. The latter two studios didn't buy ad time during the Super Bowl last year either. Fox did, although the game aired on its sibling television network. This year the game will be broadcast on NBC, which is part of the same media conglomerate as Universal.

Super Bowl commercials cost an estimated $4 million per 30-second spot this year.

That marks a big commitment for a small studio like Relativity, which has never had a movie gross more than $100 million at the domestic box office. (Its biggest hit, October's "Immortals," collected $83 million.) But the Feb. 24 release "Act of Valor," which features real Navy SEALs, is targeted at the same action-loving male audience that will likely be watching the Super Bowl in droves.

The spot will air during the fourth quarter of the game, along with two other "Act of Valor" commercials during pregame coverage and one in postgame.

Last year, Relativity bought a Super Bowl commercial for its March 2011 thriller "Limitless," which went on to collect a solid $79 million at the box office.

The only other independent studio with a big-budget movie coming up by summer is Lionsgate, which will not be buying a Super Bowl spot to promote its young-female-targeted "The Hunger Games."

— Ben Fritz

Photo: A scene from "Act of Valor." Credit: Relativity Media.

Ron Burkle buys Relativity Media stake from Elliott Management

RelativityKavanaughRelativity's Ryan Kavanaugh is getting a new partner: Ron Burkle.

The supermarket magnate's Yucaipa Cos. investment firm is buying out private equity firm Elliott Management's minority stake in Kavanaugh's independent film studio Relativity Media, confirmed a person who is familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly.

The amount of the investment was not immediately available, but knowledgeable people have said that Elliott's stake in Relativity, the financially strained company behind "Immortals" and "Take Me Home Tonight," was worth about $150 million.

Relativity's relationship with Elliott, previously its only investor, has grown troubled in the last year amid management and financial troubles at the studio. The private equity firm, which has $19 billion under management, has been letting Relativity slowly buy down its stake while seeking to exit entirely.

Kavanaugh was previously in talks with JPMorgan Chase & Co. about leading a deal to buy out Elliott.

Last fall, a firm connected to Burkle, Colbeck Capital Management, gave Relativity a much-needed $200 million loan that is helping the studio to complete and release several upcoming movies, including the big-budget Snow White tale "Mirror Mirror," starring Julia Roberts, and "Act of Valor," an action movie featuring Navy SEALs.

Relativity has six movies set to come out by April and no others in production.

The investment is being made by Y Entertainment Group, a new subsidiary of Yucaipa focused on the media business. Its first deal, also announced Thursday, was the acquisition of Artist Group International, a New York concert booking agency.

In 2010, Burkle backed an unsuccessful bid by independent filmmakers Harvey and Bob Weinstein to buy back their film studio Miramax.

Elliott continues to oversee a multibillion-dollar fund to co-finance movies with Universal Pictures in which it is the lead investor. The fund was previously managed by Relativity, but Elliott took back control last spring.

News of the investment was first reported by Bloomberg.

Michael Joe, a former president of Relativity who joined Elliott last March to oversee its entertainment investments, announced yesterday that he was leaving. The veteran entertainment industry executive has not yet landed a new position.

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Relativity Chief Operating Officer Brian Edwards leaves company

Relativity Media is at a crossroads

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Relativity Media CEO Ryan Kavanaugh with actress Kate Bosworth. Credit: Charley Gallay / WireImage

Relativity Chief Operating Officer Brian Edwards exits company

Immortals
The revolving door of senior executives at Relativity Media continues as Chief Operating Officer Brian Edwards has left after less than six months on the job.

On Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the independent studio behind "Immortals" and the upcoming Snow White film "Mirror Mirror" confirmed that Edwards, who joined in May from Mark Burnett Productions, left the West Hollywood-based studio in October.

Edwards, an experienced entertainment attorney, is a former COO and general counsel at DreamWorks and held the same posts at Mark Burnett Productions.

Relativity's controversial Chief Executive Ryan Kavanaugh has been unable to hold onto a number of senior executives in the last year. Former Chief Financial Officer Bill Sutman left in January following a two-year stint. In April, marketing and distribution President Peter Adee departed after just eight months on the job. The following month, President Michael Joe, Kavanaugh's No. 2 at the time, exited after a year on the job and a clash in management style with Kavanaugh.

Last month, Relativity's senior vice president of acquisitions, Joe Matukewicz, left for a similar job at Sony Pictures after less than a year on the job.

Now, with Edwards gone, Kavanaugh may be about to lose his other top lieutenant. Relativity President Steve Bertam, promoted from COO when Michael Joe left, is in discussions about whether he will stay or leave when his contract ends Dec. 31. Those discussions were first reported by the Wrap.

While "Immortals" has had a fairly good box-office performance, taking in $77 million in the U.S. and Canada so far, Relativity has found itself in a cash-strapped position. Its original investor, Elliot  Management, is winding down its relationship with the studio and not putting in any more money, according to knowledgeable people not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Kavanaugh has also been trying to raise funds from new investors, the people said.

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Relativity Media opens a door into China

Box Office: Sandler, DiCaprio can't beat No. 1 'Immortals'

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Henry Cavill in "Immortals." Credit: Jan Thijs / Relativity Media

Relativity shifts to producing films instead of acquiring them

Immortals2
Relativity Media is focusing more on producing movies than acquiring them as it transforms from co-financier to independent studio.

With investor Elliott Management having taken control of its co-financing arrangement with Universal Pictures and a similar deal with Sony Pictures ending in April, Relativity's business is now entirely dependent on the films it releases.

Since the studio run by Ryan Kavanaugh began distributing its own pictures last year, its two biggest hits have been "Immortals," which opened to $32.3 million this weekend, and March's "Limitless," which premiered in March and grossed a total of $79 million domestically. Both were productions managed by Relativity. A number of movies for which Relativity acquired distribution rights -- including "Take Me Home Tonight," "Shark Night 3D," and "Machine Gun Preacher" -- have flopped.

"We're more cautious now about acquisitions because they haven't performed as well as the movies we produced and financed in-house," Relativity's co-President Tucker Tooley said in an interview.

Unlike most studios that have movies scheduled and in various stages of production for late 2012 and into 2013, Relativity's releases will taper off by mid-spring. It has six pictures, including the nearly $100-million Snow White adaptation "Mirror Mirror" and the Navy SEALs action picture "Act of Valor" set to come out by April.

Only one other movie, the low-budget comedy "21 and Over," has been shot and is awaiting a release date.

Relativity has two releases scheduled for later in 2012: "Safe Haven," based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, and action movie "Hunter Killer" to be directed by Antoine Fuqua. However,it has not yet cast actors or set a production start date for either film.

The uncertainty about Relativity's future comes as Elliott, its sole investor for many years, is winding down its involvement in the studio. Kavanaugh has been trying to raise roughly $700 million from investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. to buy out Elliott and has been seeking to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to fund marketing expenses, according to people close to the studio.

In an interview, Kavanaugh denied that Relativity has been having any financial problems or is looking for new marketing dollars.

See the story in Saturday's Times for much more on the challenges faced by Relativity and Kavanaugh.

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Relativity Media is at a crossroads

Box Office: Sandler, DiCaprio can't beat No. 1 'Immortals'

Relativity Media opens a door into China

-- Ben Fritz

Credit: Stephen McHattie and Henry Cavill in "Immortals." Credit: Jan Thijs / Relativity Media.

Will 'Immortals' be hurt by Call of Duty, Skyrim game launches?

MW3poster
It's a tough week for the movie industry to grab the attention of young men.

On Tuesday the latest sequel in one of the video game industry's most successful franchises, Call of Duty, sold 6.5 million copies in a single day, setting a new record. Hitting stores today is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the follow-up to 2007's hit fantasy game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Many in Hollywood are concerned that video games and other forms of digital entertainment are keeping young consumers glued to their screens in the home rather than venturing out to theaters.

That phenomenon poses a particular challenge for this weekend's new release "Immortals," an R-rated ultra-violent action movie for which the core audience is men between 17 and 34. Terry Curtin, president of marketing for studio Relativity Media, said she was well aware of the predicament.

Rather than attempt to trump the Call of Duty and Skyrim hype, Relativity is trying to take advantage of it. Video game players who use Microsoft's Xbox 360, the most popular console for players of the two games, can see an ad for "Immortals" front and center on the console's "welcome" screen every time it turns on.

In addition, Relativity bought time to promote "Immortals" on retail chain GameStop's in-store TV network Monday night when hard-core players picked up their copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 at midnight.

Immortals1"We have a huge crossover with the gaming community and they're especially important for us to reach this week," Curtin said. "So we've spent a lot of time on initiatives to reach that audience."

Research firm Ipsos OTX has found that despite the long lines outside of game stores around a big launch, there's no effect on overall moviegoing. Total box office on weekends following the debut of the most popular game titles doesn't deviate significantly from historical norms, said Vincent Bruzzese, president of OTX's motion picture group.

"The people who are so dedicated to playing video games that it prevents them from going out to a movie for a few hours probably wouldn't go anyway," said Bruzzese. "They would be playing some other game."

Reaching those consumers with a marketing message for a specific movie, however, can be difficult when so much of their attention is focused on the multi-player modes in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and the swords in Skyrim. In addition, because they spend so many hours playing the new games, twentysomething guys are less likely to see television commercials.

Social media research shows that conversations among young males on Twitter, Facebook and other outlets are more focused on video games than movies.

As ticket sales roll in this weekend, Relativity will find out whether gamers are willing to put down their controllers for a few hours of non-interactive beheadings.

— Ben Fritz

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Top photo: GameStop employee Bradley Duncan gives away Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 posters during a launch event for the highly anticipated video game at a store in North Las Vegas, Nev. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images. Bottom photo: Henry Cavill in "Immortals." Credit: Jan Thijs / Relativity Media.

Movie Projector: Brad Pitt vs. 'Lion King,' 'Dolphin Tale' for No.1

Moneyball with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill  may be the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
It will be a jungle out there at the box office this weekend, as one of Hollywood's leading lions faces off against a couple of formidable foes from the animal kingdom.

Brad Pitt's new baseball drama, "Moneyball," will fight for the No. 1 spot against last weekend's surprise winner, the 3-D version of "The Lion King," and a new family film, "Dolphin Tale." Each movie could debut with between $18 million and $20 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

"Lion King" proved it had bite even after its strong $30-million opening, pulling in over $2 million a day since Monday. The re-release of the 1994 blockbuster is outperforming even Disney's expectations, prompting the studio to consider extending its original two-week run.

Meanwhile, two other new films, "Abduction" -- Taylor Lautner's bid to transition from "Twilight" teen hunk to action star -- and the action flick "Killer Elite" are expected to gross between $10 million and $14 million.

"Moneyball," which some pundits have already singled out as an awards contender, has so far earned exceptionally positive reviews from critics. The film, which cost Sony a little more than $50 million to produce, is based on Michael Lewis' bestselling nonfiction book about Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s who uses an unconventional approach to analyze baseball statistics.

In the film, Pitt plays Beane, who upsets the Major League Baseball establishment by fielding a team of ragtag player.

The film has had a long journey to the big screen. Steven Soderbergh was scheduled to begin shooting the movie in 2009, but just days before filming was set to start, Sony pulled the plug over financial and creative differences with the filmmaker. Roughly a year later, Bennett Miller was brought in to direct the picture using a revised script by Aaron Sorkin.

"Dolphin Tale," based on the story of an actual sea creature that lost its tail in a crab trap, is expected to resonate strongly with family audiences. The movie is being sold as an inspirational drama, a few of which have fared well at the box office in recent months. "Soul Surfer," a low-budget film about a girl who lost her arm in a shark attack, grossed a respectable $44 million worldwide and earned a rare "A+" grade from audiences, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

The current film, whose cast includes Harry Connick, Jr. and Morgan Freeman, was produced for about $37 million by Alcon Entertainment and is being released by Warner Bros. Like "Soul Surfer," the picture has in recent weeks been marketed to a faith-based audience as well as home-schooled children.

"Abduction" is Lautner's first major film outside of the lucrative "Twilight" series, which propelled him into the spotlight. Lionsgate spent about $35 million to produce the action movie, and the studio is hopeful that it will spawn a franchise similar to "Bourne Identity," starring Matt Damon. 

The film is so far generating the most interest among Lautner's key demographic -- teen girls -- but if it is to ultimately succeed, it will need to attract a broader audience. Meanwhile, Lionsgate is in need of a hit after a rough summer at the box office. Both "Conan the Barbarian," an expensive remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger '80s film, and the mixed-martial-arts drama "Warrior" were among the studio's recent flops.

"Killer Elite" is the first release from Open Road Films, a joint venture between theater operators Regal Entertainment and AMC Entertainment. The company, headed by former Weinstein Co. senior executive Tom Ortenberg, launched in March and plans to acquire and distribute eight to 10 movies a year. 

The film, starring Robert de Niro, Jason Statham and Clive Owen, was financed by the Australian content-and-technology company Omnilab Media for about $70 million. Open Road, which is also paying to market the film, would not disclose how much it spent to acquire the film's U.S. distribution rights.

In limited release, Relativity Media's "Machine Gun Preacher," about a weapons-toting religious leader who travels to Africa, will open in a total of four theaters in Los Angeles and New York.

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-- Amy Kaufman
Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Brad Pitt, left, stars with Jonah Hill in "Moneyball." Credit: Sony Pictures.

Relativity Media opens a door into China

M 070_D035_00128-00127rV2_JTrv1 Independent studio Relativity Media is making a jump into the fast-growing Chinese market with a deal that will give it a stake in a local production company and an avenue to release its own movies in the country.

Relativity's chief executive, Ryan Kavanaugh, was in China on Monday morning to announce the deal, which includes a host of partners.

In the first part of the agreement, Relativity is taking a stake in SkyLand, a China-based production venture backed by SAIF Partners, an Asian private equity firm with $3.5 billion under management, and IDG China Media, the Chinese arm of Boston-based technology and publishing giant International Data Group.

The three partners will together control a fund worth about $100 million that will produce content based on Chinese culture in the country with hopes of releasing it around the world.

Formed two years ago, SkyLand 's most recent release was "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan." The movie, which was directed by Wayne Wang and produced by Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendi Murdoch, was a flop in the U.S., grossing just $1.2 million since its release last month.

Also announced in China on Monday was a partnership by state-owned Huaxia Film Distribution Co., China's second-largest film distributor, with SkyLand. That arrangement will allow Relativity to release its upcoming movies in China without being restricted by a government quota that allows only about 20 foreign movies per year in the country on a revenue-sharing basis.

RyanK That's significant for Relativity, as the young studio is transitioning from co-financing movies with Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures into the riskier business of producing its own pictures. Several high-profile Relativity movies that will get a Chinese release under this partnership include November's ancient Greece-set action movie "Immortals" and pictures coming out next year based on the "Snow White" fairy tale and the Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Raven."

China is one of the world's fastest-growing movie markets, with box-office receipts up 64% in 2010 to $1.5 billion, making it No. 6 in the world.

Other entertainment companies have been aggressively expanding their presence in the country as well. Legendary Pictures in June announced a new joint venture to produce movies in the country intended for release around the world. Former News Corp. President Peter Chernin last year launched a company to invest in fast-growing businesses in Asia, including in China.

-- Ben Fritz

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Legendary Pictures to produce movies in China through joint venture

Coming soon to a theater near Yuri

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Control of Relativity's co-financing deal with Universal shifts to Elliott Management

Top photo: Henry Cavill in "Immortals." Credit: Jan Thijs / Relativity Media. Bottom photo: Relativity Media Chief Executive Ryan Kavanaugh. Credit: John Shearer / Getty Images.

Control of Relativity's co-financing deal with Universal shifts to Elliott Management

Relativity Media's fund used to co-finance movies at Universal Pictures will now be controlled by the independent studio's backer, Elliott Management, the companies announced late Wednesday.

In the latest shift of control between the two firms, Elliott is taking over the fund, called Beverly 2, that Relativity has used to co-finance dozens of films produced and released by Universal since 2008. The agreement ends in 2015.

Michael Joe, a former president of Relativity who moved to Elliott last month to more closely manage its minority investment in the independent studio, will oversee the co-financing fund. He was previously executive vice president of Universal and is close to many executives there.

Though it will no longer manage the co-financing fund, Relativity will continue to get a producing credit and fee on Universal movies that draw on Beverly 2. Additionally, Relativity Chief Executive Ryan Kavanaugh will continue to receive an executive producer credit on the pictures.

The shift comes as Relativity's move into financing and releasing its own pictures has increasingly put the company at odds with Universal. The two studios both have Snow White movies set for release next year and have been shifting the release dates of the pictures in hopes of gaining an advantage over the other by coming out first.

When asked several hours before the press release was issued Wednesday whether management of the Universal co-financing deal was moving to Elliott under Joe's control, a spokesman for Relativity replied: "This is not accurate."

The announcement also noted that Elliott has agreed to invest additional capital into Relativity to help fund its slate of self-financed films to be released this year. Elliott and Relativity declined to specify the amount.

-- Ben Fritz

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