x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Film fund makes deal for 20 projects

Imagenation Abu Dhabi and Hyde Park Entertainment have struck a deal to make 20 feature films over seven years.

An Abu Dhabi film fund has teamed up with the Hollywood company behind box office hits such as Bringing Down the House and Premonition in a US$250 million (Dh918m) financing deal to make up to 20 feature films over seven years, the companies announced yesterday. The deal between Imagenation Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Media Company, and Hyde Park Entertainment, which on Friday released the Bollywood-Hollywood romantic comedy The Other End of the Line, will also include financing for the production of local language and cross-cultural films.

It is the third Hollywood partnership announced by Imagenation since its launch two months ago as a $1 billion fund for the development, production and distribution of feature films. "The primary goal of the partnership is to make mainstream Hollywood cinema like I've done in the past 25 years," said Ashok Amritraj, the chairman and chief executive of Hyde Park Entertainment. "But considering that I have a special interest in providing a spotlight for Asian and Middle-Eastern talent, there will be a component of it which will deal with looking at talent in that part of the world."

Mr Amritraj, from Chennai, founded Hyde Park Entertainment in 1999. His recent releases include Dreamer, starring Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning, through DreamWorks; Shopgirl, starring Steve Martin and Claire Danes, through The Walt Disney Company; and Death Sentence, starring Kevin Bacon and Kelly Preston, and released by 20th Century Fox. In addition to The Other End of the Line, starring Jesse Metcalfe and released by MGM, the company's current releases include Traitor, starring Don Cheadle. It is now working on an adaptation of the video game, Street Fighter.

Hyde Park's tie-up with Imagenation is far from its first foray into international film funding. The company has made a deal with Reliance Entertainment in India and earlier this year set up a film fund in Singapore with the support of the Media Development Authority. "But this is certainly the most significant" of the deals, Mr Amritraj said. For Imagenation, the partnership will allow the company to reach into genres that its other two partnerships, with Participant Media and National Geographic Films, do not. The company's $250m fund with Participant Media will focus mainly on issue-driven films, while the $100m joint venture with National Geographic will look mainly to true-life stories and tales that connect audiences to their environment.

"Ashok's films will incorporate all the different genres that won't be covered by our other two deals," said Edward Borgerding, the chief executive of ADMC, which owns and publishes The National. "He's very good at making romantic comedies, for instance." Beyond genre, the deal will also expand the company's international reach. "The relationship with Ashok gives us the ability to look very carefully at Bollywood movies, and very carefully at the Asian film industries, which are booming industries, and to make movies in those genres with the confidence that we are with someone who knows how to do it and has the relationships to do it well," Mr Borgerding said.

The partnership will have its headquarters in Abu Dhabi's new media zone, twofour54, as well as a front office in Hyde Park's Los Angeles base. Patrick Aiello, the executive vice president of the company, will supervise creative affairs for the partnership, while Mimi Steinbauer, newly named president of Hyde Park International, will handle foreign sales for pictures produced by the company. "Abu Dhabi's investment with international media partners is putting the emirate in the global spotlight at a critical time for the movie industry," said Mohammed Khalaf al Mazrouei, the chairman of Imagenation. "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."