Rousselet rolls dice with Vendome


Despite tight credit markets and a virtual freeze on new film-financing deals, former Warner Bros. executive Philippe Rousselet has put together a film-financing company.

Vendome Pictures, which Rousselet has founded with partner Fabrice Gianfermi, will have access to about $175 million through a credit facility, as well as mezzanine and equity capital.

The company has been in the works for several years, with several larger banks recently falling out of a potential deal as the financial crisis worsened.

But the entrepreneur has found partners in the more boutique-oriented financial companies CIT and RBS Greenwich, which are providing a $115 million credit facility, as well film-financing specialists Newbridge Film Capital and several equity investors, which collectively will offer an additional $50 million-$60 million.

CAA financial guru Rick Hess also was involved as an adviser on the deal.

"The first instinct from the banks in a time of crisis is to pull out," Rousselet said. "But for some investors, films become a very intelligent investment. A couple of years ago, films would be a riskier investment than the stock market or real estate. It's not anymore."

Vendome will aim to make as many as three movies per year in the $25 million-$30 million range over the course of its five-year agreement.

At Warners, Rousselet oversaw such titles as the Steven Seagal vehicle "Under Siege" and the urban meltdown drama "Falling Down" and produced the 2005 Nicolas Cage starrer "Lord of War" as an independent producer.

Rousselet plans on specializing in action movies and comedies with strong foreign appeal and has hired former Big Beach executive Jeb Brody as president of production. Kathleen Amundson will serve as CFO. Rousselet will serve as president and CEO, with Gianfermi as co-CEO.

Vendome already has set up a series of distribution agreements. Summit will sell foreign rights exclusively everywhere except in the U.K., where StudioCanal's Optimum Releasing will distribute Vendome's titles. On the domestic side, the company will have what amounts to a first-look distribution deal with Summit, with principals emphasizing that movies could sometimes go out through other companies.

Rousselet said that Vendome's model will be to monitor production costs carefully while mining the international market, even as foreign buyers scale back on nonstar-driven titles. "Hopefully in hard times people have to realize movies need to be made for a little less money because I'm not sure international buyers will be able to pay as much," he said. (partialdiff)