Hammer has risen from the grave

Horror label back in production game after 30 years

LONDON -- The coffin lid for cult British horror label Hammer Film Prods. has been pried open once again, this time by a group of European investors led by Netherlands-based Cyrte Investments.

The consortium -- which includes such industry players as John de Mol, former Liberty Global Chellomedia execs Simon Oakes and Marc Schipper and movie veterans Guy East and Nigel Sinclair of Los Angeles-based label Spitfire Pictures -- plan to resurrect the dormant label and put it back into production for the big and small screen alike.

No financial details of the deal, which includes Hammer's 295-title library, were given, but those close to the deal said it was in the millions of dollars.

The new management team is headed by Oakes and Schipper with East and Sinclair on board as non-executive directors with a first-look development and production pact with Hammer.

The newly constituted Hammer group will have shareholder equity and facilities in excess of approximately $50 million, the parties said Thursday. Oakes said in an interview that the business plan going forward will concentrate on making films under the Hammer banner rather than initially trying to resurrect some of the old titles.

It is the intention "to leverage the initial capital in the near future to provide a significantly increased production financing capacity," the consortium said.

The plan is for Hammer to return to production after more than 30 years "with an active development program designed to emulate the best traditions of Hammer."

The new management also aims to aggressively reinvigorate the Hammer brand for a new generation of horror fans "utilizing Web and mobile technologies, whilst retaining Hammer's significant heritage."

Hammer is best known for its gothic horror productions in the 1950s and 1960s. The banner was responsible for the classic movie series of Dracula, Frankenstein and Quatermass, forever imprinting its "Hammer House of Horror" slogan here and abroad.

Said Oakes: "We have been working on this deal for almost a year now, and are very proud at having brought together this incredibly talented group of people in combination with Hammer's heritage. Hammer is a great British brand -- we intend to take Hammer back into production and develop its global potential."

Added East: "It's great to be back in business with Hammer again. Now is a perfect time to reinvigorate the brand."

Oakes said that bringing East and Sinclair into the fold was essential as it gave the company entree in Hollywood and "access to the best writers and talent" looking to make horror films.

Prior to the deal announced Thursday, Hammer had been in advanced negotiations with production, facilities, financing and sales label Ealing Studios to join forces.

That deal fell apart because of price concerns surrounding Hammer's valuation of its film library. The other problem facing any new owner is a rights horror story on the library. Several high-profile titles such as those starring "Dracula" and "The Werewolf" are tied up by studios, including Warner Bros., Columbia and Universal, with remake rights and ownership of characters a legal minefield.
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