Lionsgate taps $200 mil fund for 23 pictures

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Lionsgate has closed a 23-picture film-financing deal that boasts $200 million in funds from a blue-chip consortium, the studio said Tuesday.

The mini-major will kick in an equal amount of its own cash for a total of $400 million in funding for select movies during a three-year period. Lionsgate Films, which closed the months-in-gestation financing Friday, is set to announce its fiscal-year financial results today.

The funding consortium, dubbed Pride Pictures, includes JPMorgan Securities, Goldman Sachs, Jefferies and a group of private investors who participated in a $35 million private-equity component of the financing. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs led a $134 million senior-debt component.

Films covered under the financing include current Ashley Judd starrer "Bug" and several titles from a 20-picture slate planned for Lionsgate's fiscal 2008.

Some of the other titles include teen comedy "Good Luck Chuck," starring Dane Cook and Jessica Alba; "War," with Jet Li and Jason Statham; and James Mangold's "3:10 to Yuma," toplined by Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Lionsgate's "Saw" and Tyler Perry franchises are excluded from the arrangement, as the studio sought to preserve full profitability for some of its biggest releases.

"This deal underscores our commitment to maintain our conservative risk profile, while preserving the upside potential of our releases as we continue to grow the business," Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said.

Funds will be used to cover production, acquisition, marketing and distribution costs on select theatrical releases, officials said.

Orchestrating the deal for Lionsgate were general counsel Wayne Levin and exec vp business and legal affairs Jim Gladstone, with Heenan Blaikie and Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstreif serving as outside counsel. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and O'Melveny & Myers advised Goldman Sachs and Jefferies.

Etan Vlessing reported from Toronto; Carl DiOrio reported from Los Angeles.
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