EXCLUSIVE: Los Angeles-based Newbridge Film Capital tells me that it wants to completely fund bigger movies from now on. Newbridge – funded by Rizvi Traverse, the U.S. investor in ICM — has until now been a gap financier, working with banks to cover up to 40% of projects’ budgets. But Newbridge co-managing director Diane Stidham tells me that’s become increasingly difficult over the last few years. The pre-sales market is patchy. Most distributors wait to see the finished movie. This means Newbridge’s money can be “out” as long as 18 months.
“We want to go out and source the projects we want to be involved with, rather than just have producers coming to us with projects already developed,” Stidham says. Another minority financier, Magnet Media Group, told me the same thing last week. Stidham says 3 movies that Newbridge has backed are being sold here in the market. Vendome Pictures is producing two of them, and Summit International is selling both.
— First is Larry Crowne — written, directed and starring Tom Hanks with Julia Roberts. Universal has taken domestic rights. Hanks and Gary Goetzman are producing for Playtone, with Philippe Rousselet executive producing for Vendome. The movie is currently shooting in Los Angeles for delivery next spring.
— Source Code is also in production. Duncan Jones is directing this sci-fi thriller, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which has been shooting in Chicago. Mark Gordon is producing with Vendome’s CEO Philippe Rousselet and Jordan Wynn.
— Affinity has begun selling Newbridge’s third investment, The Great Ghost Rescue, at the market here. CAA and Affinity are handling North American rights together. Yann Samuell directs. The family adventure stars Kevin McKidd (Percy Jackson & The Olympians) and Emma Fielding (The Other Man). Gap financier Silver Reel has come on board, as has London post-production house Lip Sync Productions.
Newbridge only put money into one project last year, Robert Rodriguez’s $25 million Machete. Twentieth Century Fox bought U.S. domestic rights after a heated Hollywood studio bidding war. Robert Rodriguez wrote and co-directed Machete with long-time editor Ethan Maniquis. Sony is handling overseas sales. Fox will release Machete wide on September 3.
Newbridge is circling two more movies being pre-sold here in the market. It has financed 25 films to date, including Julia Roberts movie Fireflies In the Garden; Disgrace, starring John Malkovich; and Death Defying Acts, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. What’s changed is that it’s no longer interested in funding pure drama. “It just doesn’t work anymore,” says co-managing director Danny Mandel.
Newbridge opened for business in mid-2006. It reportedly had raised $50 million through Rizvi Traverse and Merrill Lynch. Of course, Bank of America has bought Merrill Lynch since then, cutting Newbridge loose. Rizvi Traverse now is the sole institutional investor in the venture, but Stidham stresses her company is still fully capitalized. “There’s never been an issue with liquidity,” she says. Stidham puts on a brave face when it comes to how indie film finance has dried up. “All this pain will help make the indie film sector better,” she says. “We’re going to get movies that the market wants, which means financiers will see a stronger return.”