Investors stake hopes on revival of the Dracula pictures’ creators

May 11, 2007 (The Times / Count Dracula will rise from the grave once more after the production company behind the cult Hammer horror films was sold to a Dutch private equity firm, it emerged yesterday.

Cyrte Investments, headed by John de Mol, the Dutch producer behind Endemol and creator of Big Brother, plans to spend an initial $50 million to resurrect the Gothic horror pictures such as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy that achieved popularity in the 1950s and 1960s.

The new owners of Hammer Film Productions plan to reinvent Hammer as an “international brand for 21st century film and television audiences”.

Under the terms of the deal, Mr de Mol’s investment vehicle has acquired the rights to the 295-title Hammer catalogue and is also understood to be in negotiations with a major UK broadcaster for a Hammer Horror TV series.

Cyrte, set up by Mr de Mol but 25 per cent owned by NIBC, the Dutch private bank, has acquired the production house from Hammer Entertainment, which is a conglomerate of eight investors including Charles Saatchi; Rick Senat, former head of business affairs at Warner Bros; Larry Chrisfield, former head of Ernst & Young’s Entertainment and Media Group; and Rob Dickins, former chairman of Warner Music UK that acquired Hammer Film Productions in 2000.

Mr Chrisfield said: “Since we acquired Hammer, we have done a lot with it but we never brought it back into production. There were significant revenues from the back catalogue and also from merchandise. It was profitable, it always has been and it probably will continue to be.”

Under the terms of the sale, the former owners can no longer trade as Hammer Entertainment, although the members are understood to be considering investing in other similar ventures.

The revived production house will be managed by Simon Oakes and Marc Shipper, formerly of Liberty Global, the US cable and telecom group. Other board members include Guy East and Nigel Sinclair of Spitfire Pictures, a Los Angeles production company.

Mr Oakes, who brokered the deal with the former owners of Hammer, said: “Hammer is a great British media brand that has lain dormant but lived on in people’s imaginations. It is more intelligent and character-driven than traditional American ‘Goreography’ and we intend to capitalise on this and make it a global brand.”

Hammer has entered into a first-look arrangement with Cyrte for financing deals on all productions in the horror genre but said that it could enter into deals with other investors, while Spitfire Pictures has a first-look development and production pact with the production company.

Cyrte intends to leverage the initial capital to provide additional funding for future productions.

The announcement comes less than a week before the Cannes Film Festival. Hammer intends to unwrap details of the first films shortly.

Fanged Films

Hong Kong, 1985
Mr. Vampire / Jiang Shi Xian Sheng / Mr. Stiff Corpse
USA, 1917

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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