Warner Bros. longtime financial partner Village Roadshow Pictures has cut a similar co-financing deal with the Burbank studio's crosstown rival, Sony Pictures Entertainment, say people familiar with the arrangement.
The Sony agreement, which is currently being finalized, will initially cover four upcoming movies: "The Equalizer," directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz and Melissa Leo, based on the 1980 TV series about a private detective who is a killer for hire (due out September 26); "Annie" (pictured, above), with Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz (Dec. 19); and two 2015 releases, Louis Leterrier's "Grimsby," starring Sacha Baron Cohen and "Goosebumps" (Aug. 7). The deal is expected to extend to many more future movies, these sources say.
Sony has been looking to mitigate its risk on big pictures. Last month, the studio snagged a $200 million slate deal with LStar Capital. Former Warner Bros. topper Jeff Robinov is also expected to join Sony, equipped with several hundreds of millions of his own film financing. Sony has committed to invest $50 million into that venture.
Village Roadshow will continue its co-finance partnership with Warner Bros., which will remain the production company's hometown studio with Sony being a supplementary deal. Over the past 17 years Village, headed by Bruce Berman, helped bankroll dozens of high profile movies including the recent blockbuster "The Lego Movie," "The Great Gatsby, " the Sherlock Holmes franchise, "The Matrix" and the "Oceans Eleven" series.
Warner Bros. will remain Village Roadshow's primary home studio with its first-look deal intact. Just as Village Roadshow co-finances 25% to 50% of specific Warner Bros. movies, the company will have that same variable financial arrangement with Sony films.
In 2012,Village Roadshow extended its current relationship with Warner Bros. through 2017. That deal includes $1.125 billion in debt equity to fund multiple projects.
Village Roadshow and Sony first started talking about collaborating on pictures last year, predating the release of "Lego" this past February. That film has grossed more than $450 million worldwide.
As of now, Village Roadshow, which co-financed 50% of "Lego," is not a financial partner on the planned sequel. However, that issue is far from resolved, says one knowledgeable source, contrary to earlier reports elsewhere suggesting otherwise. The "Lego" sequel is dated for May 26, 2017.
Sources say Village has been anxious to set up a secondary co-finance deal with another studio since it has a lot of capital to deploy. With the departure of Thomas Tull's Legendary Pictures from Warner Bros. in 2013, the Burbank studio has brought Brett Ratner's RatPac-Dune Entertainment into the mix.
That partnership between Ratner, James Packer and Steven Mnuchin came with a $300 million credit facility along with equity and was tapped to co-finance Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity," which became a critical and unexpected commercial hit.
Village is on tap to co-finance a slew of upcoming pictures at Warner Bros., among them, Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper," starring Bradley Cooper; "Edge of Tomorrow," starring Tom Cruise; the Wachowski siblings' "Jupiter Ascending," with Channing Tatum; "The Judge," starring Robert Downey Jr. ; director Ron Howard's "Heart of the Sea," with Chris Hemsworth; "Mad Max: Fury Road"; Guy Ritchie's "Knights"; a live-action "Tarzan"; New Line's "San Andreas," headlined by Dwayne Johnson and "Into the Storm."
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