Warner, Village Roadshow Plan 20-Movie Joint Venture

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures are expanding their longtime business relationship with an agreement to co-finance and distribute at least 20 movies over the next five years.

Under the deal, Village Roadshow will produce the films and Warner Bros. will market and release them worldwide, except in Australia and New Zealand.

Village Roadshow's parent, the publicly traded Village Roadshow Ltd., is Australia's largest entertainment concern with interests in theaters, theme parks, radio networks, film studios and theatrical, video, television and multimedia distribution.

Bruce Berman, who served as head of production at Warner Bros. from 1989 until he became a producer at the studio last year, will head up the new joint venture as chairman and chief executive. He will continue to be based at Warner Bros.

Village Roadshow's president and chief operating officer, Greg Coote, will continue to oversee business operations at the Century City-based entertainment outfit.

The new deal with Warner, Coote said, "adds mainstream credibility to what is now a mainstream company." Village Roadshow, which Coote admitted has been "working on the fringes for quite a while," has primarily financed low-budget independent movies for the Australian market. Its most notable offerings were "Breaker Morant" and "Mad Max."

Warner will benefit from the arrangement by getting additional product after the loss of its main supplier, Arnon Milchan's New Regency Productions. That company has signed a long-term deal with rival 20th Century Fox. Another of Warner's key producers, Arnold Kopelson ("The Fugitive") also recently made a deal with Fox.

Berman said when the new venture is running full tilt, he expects to deliver four movies a year to Warner in all budget ranges.

"I'm determined to take some chances at $15 million and take some chances at $75 million," said Berman.

Berman said the new venture has a "running start" with about 20 projects in development at his Warner-based production company, Plan B Entertainment, and that he has access to some projects in the studio's war chest.

Warner and Village Roadshow have been in business together for many years, having built more than 50 multiplexes in five territories (Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy and Taiwan). Roadshow has been Warner's theatrical distributor in Australia and New Zealand for 25 years.

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