According to a report in THR, Relativity Media chief Ryan Kavanaugh might just whistle his way past the graveyard yet again, finding yet another institutional investor to bail out his debt-strapped company. Report says that Toronto-based Catalyst Capital Group acquired $150 million of the debt that was verging on sinking Kavanaugh’s heavily leveraged company, and that CCG will leave him in charge. This wouldn’t get him out of the woods yet–there’s another $100 million owed to debtors that include Colbeck Capital, which has clashed as loudly with Kavanaugh over its money losing investment as Elliott Management did years ago when Kavanaugh was in the studio slate financing game. Relativity’s film program has consisted of trying to counter program and cater to niche audiences with moderate budget efforts while waiting for a Twilight Saga-like breakout, but the string of releases — The Best Of Me, The November Man, Brick Mansions, Three Days To Kill, Out Of The Furnace, Paranoia, House At The End Of The Street, Mirror Mirror–have for the most part posted gross performances that barely covered their budgets. The two hits in the bunch over the past few years are The Fighter (which Paramount released) and Limitless (which is being turned into a TV series).
Maybe Kavanaugh will get his chance to keep swinging for that breakout hit and that long rumored IPO; Hollywood has watched with keen interest the loud ticking of his debt clock, and Kavanaugh’s frantic effort to find money and possibly sell off pieces like a sports agency, with mixed minds. They suspect Kavanaugh pays himself most generously, and that his operation is too expensive compared to its returns on OPM and that some of his schemes are motivated by self-interest (remember the plans to create a studio in Hawaii, where he owns real estate?) But they also note that Kavanaugh has put his bad boy past behind him and has matured and calmed down–he no longer gets press for his helicopter commuting from Malibu–and that he didn’t get to be a billionaire–that is what Forbes Magazine calls him–by accident but rather by being a smart finance guy. Mostly, they lamented the potential loss of a maker of movies. Relativity’s next big swing comes with Masterminds, the Jared Hess-directed PG-13 comedy that stars Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis and Owen Wilson, with Relativity releasing it August 19. It looks funny. Stay tuned.
Press reports often say despite the low grosses of Relativity films, the company has always been cushioned by “smart deals” it makes on laying off risk with its offshore distributors. Not every one of those partners sees it that way. Said one offshore distributor, who has done a lot of business with Relativity product, “we wouldn’t shed a tear if they shut down if you look at what they’ve produced recently.”