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12 May 2001

Hammer inks pact with FirstSight Films

Hammer inks pact with FirstSight Films

Press Release - Cannes: May 12th 2001


Hammer Entertainment Ltd and FirstSight Films Ltd are to develop and produce a slate of six feature films in the horror genre.

The pact marks the first significant move back into feature film production for Hammer since its acquisition by a group of film industry investors last year. It also marks a further step in the establishment of FirstSight as a leading independent producer in the UK.

"By entering into this agreement with Charles Sturridge and his colleagues at FirstSight, we are clearly signalling our intent to deliver entertainment of high creative ambition within the most reliably commercial of film genres," said Hammer chairman, Larry Chrisfield.

"We are big fans of horror and even bigger fans of Hammer," said Sturridge. "We started talking to the Hammer principals as soon as they bought the company and we are thrilled to have reached agreement on this plan to deliver a slate of high-quality movies."

Sturridge and his FirstSight partners Francesca Barra and Selwyn Roberts will oversee the development of scripts while also taking responsibility for physical production. Hammer executives Terry Ilott and Peter Naish will take primary responsibility for finance and distribution.

"We expect that the entertainment value of the films we produce with Hammer will lie not just in the shock to the system that horror has to deliver but in the thrilling intensity we can bring to the exploration of such issues as identity and redemption," added Sturridge. "These are of especial, but not exclusive, relevance to young adult audiences and they take character rather than situation as their starting point. Above all, we want to make films that are cathartic and redemptive, returning the audience to the surface not exhausted but exhilarated by their experience."

The pact envisages a slate of medium-budget feature films that are made according to a production formula that limits the cost of individual above the line elements; that utilises a regular pool of production service providers, heads of departments and technicians; and that provides talent with meaningful participation in revenues. It is expected that the slate will attract A-list writing and directing talent."Since we acquired Hammer last year, we have had to redefine the brand for the 21st Century," noted Hammer chief executive Terry Ilott. "For us, Hammer stands for high-quality, well-made productions that have artistic integrity and respect for the audience. Hammer horror is about essential, mainstream entertainment. Therefore, the films that emerge from this agreement will be aimed squarely at the commercial marketplace, where they will have to compete with the best that Hollywood has to offer."

FirstSight principals Charles Sturridge, Selwyn Roberts and Francesca Barra are currently making Shackleton for Channel Four Television and A&E. Sturridge, one of the most respected film-makers in the UK, recently wrote and directed Longitude, with Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons, as well as the multiple-Emmy Award winning Gullivers Travels, with Ted Danson and Mary Steenbergen. His feature film credits include Runners, Aria, Fairytale: the Movie, Where Angels Fear to Tread and A Handful of Dust. His high-profile television career began in 1982 when he directed Brideshead Revisted.

Hammer, one of the most celebrated names in film history, was acquired early last year by an investment group comprising Charles Saatchi (co-founder of ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi and partner in M&C Saatchi), Rick Senat (formerly head of business affairs for Warner Bros, Europe), Larry Chrisfield (former head of Ernst & Young's Entertainment and Media Group), Rob Dickins (chief of record label Instant Karma and former chairman of Warner Music UK), Neil Mendoza and William Sieghart (partners in leading publishing agency Forward Publishing) and entrepreneur Uri David. The company has a substantial library of films it owns outright as well as profit participations in films distributed by the Hollywood majors.For further information please contact the Hammer London office on 00 44 20 7637 2322.

"Hammer is the strongest name in horror," says new chairman Larry Chrisfield. "We have brought together an exceptional group of individuals who believe that in a fast-growing but volatile business such as entertainment, a strong brand in a perennially popular genre has enormous potential. Not only are the new opportunities in digital television and the internet multiplying the value of Hammer's existing assets, but digital production and distribution techniques enable us to add to those assets at low cost and low risk."

Departing chairman Roy Skeggs, who has been with the company since the mid-1960s and who has been the majority shareholder since the mid-1980s noted: "I am delighted to be passing Hammer over to a team which brings an excellent range of media talent to the company."

Roy and his son Graham Skeggs will continue to be associated with the company as consultants.

Management of the company will be with Terry Ilott and Peter Naish, partners in Bridge Media, the film management consultancy that co-ordinated the acquisition. Between them, Ilott and Naish have twenty-five years experience in film.
In addition to the substantial cash investment made by the investment consortium, the company has negotiated a credit facility with Barclays Bank Media Banking Centre, Soho Square, who were keen to participate, recognising the intellectual property value associated with the company.

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