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This story first appeared in the Jan. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride since Relativity Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July. Is CEO Ryan Kavanaugh finally on a path toward stability? On Jan. 6, Kavanaugh announced he had lured Trigger Street producing partners Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti to run film and TV operations at the embattled studio. But many key hurdles and questions remain.
1. How will the bankruptcy get resolved?
On Feb. 1, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Michael Wiles is set to rule on Relativity’s reorganization plan. If approved, Kavanaugh, 41, is free to move forward with the next phase of the studio. To do so, Kavanaugh must demonstrate new financing is in place. Next, creditors must vote to accept the reorganization plan. The unsecured creditors committee said Jan. 4 that it supports Kavanaugh and recommended all unsecured creditors vote to accept the plan, a big show of confidence.
2. How much money will the new Relativity have?
Kavanaugh’s plan calls for $100 million in new equity. But the source of that funding remains unclear. In bankruptcy filings, a few details about the moneymen behind a proposed $250 million fund for releasing films have been revealed. Aperture Media and EMP Media will act as co-lead arrangers of a new facility. Aperture is a known entity run by film-finance veterans Jared Underwood and Andrew Robinson (they facilitated nearly $100 million in backing for such indie pics as John Wick and The Best of Me). But EMP is unfamiliar, and Relativity declined to offer details. “Anyone looking at Relativity needs to be cautious because the money’s not there till the money’s there,” says Bill Simon of executive search firm Korn Ferry. “But over the past 30 years, we’ve seen bankrupt companies without money land new investors. And with Kevin and Dana, they can attract additional creative people.”
3. Are Spacey and Brunetti a good fit?
In early January, Brunetti, 42, and Spacey, 56, were seen walking around Relativity’s Beverly Hills offices. Although they share Kavanaugh’s affinity for midbudget films and worked together on the 2008 poker drama 21, the similarities end there. Trigger Street has focused on specialized adult-oriented films (such as the Oscar best picture nominees The Social Network and Captain Phillips), while Relativity has attempted to make such broad crowd-pleasers as the heist comedy Masterminds (Sept. 30), starring Zach Galifianakis and Owen Wilson. True, Brunetti is producing the Fifty Shades of Grey movies, but his and Spacey’s upscale tastes might not be an easy fit. Or it might be exactly what Relativity needs.
4. Who will have a greenlight authority?
A source familiar with Spacey’s and Brunetti’s deals says the pair will make ultimate decisions on greenlighting films. That means Kavanaugh is ceding some control because under the old structure, there was a greenlight committee that included president Tucker Tooley, among others, with Kavanaugh involved. According to the files, Kavanaugh will co-manage the new company with investor Joseph Nicholas, 56, founder of Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research.
5. What exactly does Trigger Street bring with it?
Nothing beyond executive talent, which also includes vp Carter Swan. So there are no projects in development. And there is a question of how much time the two will have to devote to Relativity. Brunetti still is busy with the Fifty Shades of Grey sequels, and Spacey currently stars on House of Cards (and is free to take other acting jobs). But the actor recently relocated to Malibu from London, where he spent 11 years as the artistic director at The Old Vic theater.
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