We heard it was in the works, and now the deal is done. Dick Cook Studios and Film Carnival have entered into a minimum $500M motion picture financing production agreement. Under terms of the agreement, Film Carnival has committed to finance 100% of DCS motion pictures. DCS will be responsible for the development, production, worldwide distribution and marketing of the movies. The first film under the agreement is Ranger’s Apprentice co-written by Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby) and his daughter Alissa Sullivan Haggis. Haggis will direct the movie, which is based on a series of books, and share producing duties with his HWY 61 partner Michael Nozik (Syriana, The Motorcycle Diaries). The movie is set to begin production in the fall.
The film sets up Dick Cook Studios for a possible franchise property as there are 12 books in the series. The story follows an orphan who becomes the apprentice of a Ranger as they battle to keep the fantastical kingdom of Araluen safe from a plethora of enemies and threats.
Cook was previously the head of the Walt Disney Studios and served as president of distribution; he is one of the few executives today with a strong tie to those in exhibition as well. He is also no stranger to helping to launch franchise properties. While at Disney, he oversaw the launch of Jerry Bruckheimer’s Pirates Of The Caribbean. He also has served on the board of Legendary Pictures since 2011 (it recently sold to Wanda).
Deadline had heard that Cook was looking for product of late, and that his financing was falling into place and it would close soon. With Film Carnival, Cook falls into line with a number of other businessmen/filmmakers who have tapped into Chinese money such as Robert Simonds at STX Entertainment and Jeff Robinov at Studio 8. In addition, Lionsgate has a deal with Chinese-based Huayi Bros Media.
It was only a year ago when the former Walt Disney Studios chairman launched Dick Cook Studios with $150M investment from another Chinese company — Citic Guoan Group Co. Ltd., a division of the Chinese conglomerate Citic Group.
So, not surprisingly, as part of the agreement, Film Carnival said it will allow other Chinese investors to have the opportunity to invest in DCS’ motion pictures on an individual basis.
As part of the overall deal, DCS also will strategically help Film Carnival produce their own proprietary slate of motion pictures in China. Since 2015, Film Carnival has been investing in three big-budget film productions each year so this is a broad investment for them as they have been expanding into film/TV production, finance, game design, and derivate development.
Ranger’s Apprentice seems a natural to take advantage of all these areas. Based on the award-winning book series by Australian author John Flanagan, Ranger’s Apprentice is the first in the series of books and has sold over 8.5 million copies in 27 territories around the world. It has also been on The New York Times Best Seller list for more than 70 weeks.
“Ranger’s Apprentice is only the beginning to our strategic plan of a more comprehensive collaboration. I look forward to working together for the future of the art of filmmaking,” said Lou Xiaolou.