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Schulman: Mandalay to Expand Movie Production

As studios focus on big franchises, Mandalay sees an opportunity to make more movies, and producer deals

Mandalay Entertainment is expanding its ambitions to increase production of feature films, including striking overhead deals with a handful of producers while continuing to finance independent films with budgets under $15 million.

In an interview with TheWrap, Mandalay Pictures President Cathy Schulman said that the void created by the concentration on franchise films by major studios had created an opportunity in the marketplace for other kinds of movies.

“We are trying to take a look at the overall landscape and use this time as an opportunity to grow in ways other people are rejecting,” she said.

“We believe there’s so much other opportunity out there, it would be silly not to take advantage of it when it’s affordable to do.”

Mandalay has laid off one creative executive this week, Melissa Daykin, but in general Schulman said the company was looking to build up production by bringing a number of producers in house.

She would not specify how many, but said the company was in the process of negotiating a number of deals.

The choice by Mandalay to expand production at a time when the studios have cut back on their own production makes some sense, and will certainly be welcome news to independent producers who are struggling more than ever.

Schulman, an Oscar-winning producer on "Crash" who joined Mandalay in early 2007, has projects like "Sinatra" and "Our Wild Life" in development with major studios.  Up to now, Mandalay has been focused on producing big-budget films in collaboration with the major studios, which it will continue to do, Schulman said.

But being a mere producer these days is a hard way to make a profit, with studios greenlighting so few films, and paying such small margins for development.

Instead, Mandalay wants to own more of the filmmaking process.

Earlier this year the company began financing independent film under the Mandalay Vision label. Mandalay took two such films to Toronto, ‘The Whistleblower” and “The Vanishing on Seventh Street.”

Asked where the capital will come from for these films, Schulman quipped that it was “rotator cuff financing” – when owner Peter Guber put his hand in his pocket.

“We’re a company with longevity, and we’re really flexible,” said Schulman. “Peter Guber is a very flexible businessman.”