UPDATE: The funding commitment is $200 million, with half of that debt and the other half equity. It’s a multi-year agreement to co-finance the majority of Sony’s film for the next several years, $45 billion 20-year fund out of Texas, and this is a big move for Sony and reinforces Amy Pascal’s ability to put together powerhouse slates. That doesn’t include the films that Jeff Robinov is expected to make at Sony with his own funding, big films that Sony can co-finance or merely distribute. The money actually comes from LStar Capital, the credit lending affiliate of Lone Star, and CitiBank. Studio’s getting good notices on both the second installment of Amazing Spider-Man and 22 Jump Street, and this is a big shot in the arm for Pascal and Michael Lynton. Many lamented when Sony weathered a tough time last summer with White House Down and After Earth and Smurfs 2, and then got criticism from minority shareholder Daniel Loeb. Some of that criticism, that Sony spent too much on its successes and didn’t protect its downside risk, is being addressed through belt tightening and this, but the Sony team, and Pascal in particular, takes risks and makes tasteful ambitious films. In an era where television has emerged as an enterprising medium, while there is a sameness in studio films, empowering Pascal to take big swings is something many feel is good for the movie business.
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has closed a slate co-financing deal with Lone Star Capital and CitiBank that will cover the full slate for multiple years. I get the distinct impression this covers the entire slate, which includes plum franchises like The Amazing Spider-Man and its future spinoffs. They won’t get James Bond films, which are owned by MGM, but there are great titles. They included 22 Jump Street, Think Like A Man Too, Sex Tape, The Equalizer with Denzel Washington, The Interview, a piece of the Brad Pitt starrer Fury, the untitled Cameron Crowe film shooting in Hawaii with Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams, a new animated Popeye, Annie, The Kitchen Sink, Wedding Ringer with Kevin Hart, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, the Adam Sandler pic Pixels, The Smurfs 3, and Hotel Transylvania 2, Goosebumps and the Dan Brown novel Inferno. Beyond Bond being off the table, it’s likely not getting the Men in Black reboot because other companies have options on it.
Deadline revealed last Friday that CitiGroup (CityBank), led by Ben Waisbren, was on a shortlist of financiers to fill the financing gap that was supposed to go in a deal with Blue Anchor Entertainment. I reported that top Sony execs Michael Lynton and Andrew Gumpert had grown impatient waiting for Blue Anchor to come across with $300 million or more to be spread across the slate because Blue Anchor’s backers, Longhorn Capital Management and Deutsche Bank, have been delayed by a compliance issue. Sony, which has a lot of big pictures coming up that it wants to share risk on, took this other deal earlier today, I’m told. Blue Anchor is led by Bloom Hergott partner John LaViolette and vet producer and former investment banker Joseph M. Singer. CitiBank has a mixed record in showbiz investment, and its emergence surprised the banking community. Slate financing with a major studio like Sony, where the studio spreads its risk across several years of slates, is a better business than a lot of ways of playing the Hollywood game.