Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow have extended their partnership through 2017, ensuring that the studio and its long-term collaborator will continue to co-produce and co-finance films for many years to come, the two companies announced on Monday.
In addition to its Warner Bros. extension, Village Roadshow now has $1.125 billion to spend on future projects through the end of the deal. The funding was arranged by JPMorgan Chase and Rabobank.
Village Roadshow Pictures, a subsidiary of Australia’s Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, has been one of Warner Bros.’ most substantial co-financiers for 15 years, having produced such franchises as “The Matrix,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Sherlock Holmes.” It has also had a hand in awards fare including “Three Kings,” “Training Day” and “Mystic River.”
Its deal with the studio was scheduled to end in 2014, but Village Roadshow secured $380 million in new capital in June, paving the way for this new pact.
"This shows there's still a market out there for the film industry," Greg Basser, CEO of Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, told TheWrap. "But there are three key things you need — to be strategic, strong assets and a track record to back those assets up and strong management. It's no longer okay for someone to say 'Hey I've got a good idea.' You have to have been in the film industry for quite some time."
Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Village Roadshow has produced 72 films since its establishment, 68 of them released in partnership with Warner Bros.
Its production has slowed over the past few years as the company dealt with the recession. Though it continued to back hits, such as its “Sherlock Holmes” films, it also shouldered costly box office flops such as “Speed Racer” and “Happy Feet Two.” Thanks to the money raised in June and this new facility, it will now return to making six to eight films a year.
“Warner traditionally has been the industry bellwether as to how many movies are made each year and what size movies," Bruce Berman, Chairman and CEO of Village Roadshow Pictures, told TheWrap. "They are really the most tentpole-heavy studio in the business and yet they make lower budgeted movies as well. For our part, we'd like to replicate a smaller version of what Warner Bros. does — a mixture of budgets and all kinds of genres."
Village Roadshow has a pair of high-profile projects lined up – Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” delayed from this Christmas until May 2013, and the Los Angeles crime drama “Gangster Squad,” delayed from September until January 2013. Warner Bros. is releasing both of those films, the second of which had to undergo reshoots after the movie theater killings in Aurora, Colo. last summer due to a scene involving a mass shooting in a crowded cinema.
One prominent area for growth could be animation, where Warner Bros. has trailed companies such as Disney (and Pixar) and Fox (owner of Blue Sky Studios). A co-financier and co-producer of the "Happy Feet," Village Roadshow will partner with Warner Bros. on "LEGO: The Movie," an animated film based on the iconic toy.
It will also partner with the studio on such future projects as “All You Need is Kill,” a sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise, and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a reboot of the “Mad Max” franchise starring Tom Hardy.
At a time when studios are increasingly turning to outside sources of financing and production, Warner Bros has locked up one of its two major partners. Its other major co-financier, Legendary Pictures, does not have many future films lined up with the studio.
"I'm excited about the certainty that this brings to Village and I'm sure Warners on their end likes the certainty of Village going back to its traditional six to eight movies a year," Berman said.