Mysterious Monarch Pictures Launches With $500M Production Fund

Aims to lure experienced industry execs, plans Santa Monica studio facility

Last Updated: May 28, 2010 @ 9:44 AM

Monarch Pictures announced its launch Monday, with a $500 million production and distribution fund and plans to open a fully integrated film studio in Santa Monica.

Monarch said in its announcement that it plans to develop, produce, acquire, market and distribute theatrical motion pictures worldwide. But the company gave few details about the identity of its backers, the source of the financing or who would be involved in the company.

In a statement, Monarch said it is "internally financed and will internally fund its own features," meaning it is not beholden to outside investors. However, the company’s spokesman, Marvin Silverman, would not name the investors backing the company.

Current managing director Mark Cohen – who was said to be in Cannes, where the film festival just ended – made his fortune from overseas internet and gambling properties, as well as an overseas hedge fund, Silverman said. There are four investors in all, two described as "internet gurus" with brick-and-mortar experience as well, one whose money comes from Baron Publishing, and Cohen.

The privately held studio is assembling an executive team and says on its website that it looks forward to forming collaborative relationships with filmmakers. Cohen said Monarch will name a studio head and other executives in late June or early July.

Silverman told TheWrap that Monarch has set its sights on experienced executives such as former Disney chief Dick Cook and MGM chairman Mary Parent, depending on how the situation at that up-for-sale studio shakes out. Of course, whether such veteran executives would be interested in joining a start-up remains to be seen.

Cohen will step down from actively overseeing Monarch once the executive team is assembled, according to Silverman.

For the studio space, Monarch is eyeing a space in Santa Monica’s Water Garden. Silverman said they envision leasing about 20,000 square feet.

Cohen said in a statement, "We are interested in the quality of our releases rather than the quantity. We would rather release four or five films per year that are top-notch and profitable than a dozen films that are so-so.

"We said from the start that we wanted to maintain creative control over all of our projects from concept to development, and maintain creative avenues of marketing and promotions. The only way to do that is to become a production company that distributes its own films. With the allotment of $500 million for production and distribution, we can begin the process."

"We will begin to distribute our own internally developed motion pictures as well as acquired features immediately," Cohen said.

The company said its "end goal is to give its production department and filmmakers the independence to creatively put forth wonderfully entertaining films across a broad range of genres."

Silverman said the four investors have known each other for a long time, but hadn’t all worked together before forming Monarch Enterprise Group to get into the movie business. They’ve wanted to do this for about six years, he said, but realized they didn’t have the knowledge they needed. Finally, they "have the money and can hire the know-how," he said.

The reasons for keeping the company private for now, Silverman explained, have to do with being able to be selective about the movies Monarch makes, control the rate of return and reinvest any profits.

Their model is Summit Entertainment, he said, referring to the privately held company behind the "Twilight" movies.