It all started with “Ender’s Game.”
At a time when the big studios are more fearful than ever of making mistakes, it’s the production companies funded by outside investors who are in a position to take chances, from Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media (“Lincoln”), Thomas Tull’s Legendary Entertainment, now moving from Warner Bros. to Universal (“Pacific Rim”), Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Master,” “American Hustle”) to Gigi Pritzker’s OddLot Entertainment, which backed Fox Searchlight’s summer hit “The Way, Way Back” and Lionsgate/Summit’s upcoming $110-million sci-fi thriller “Ender’s Game” (November 1).
That relationship has led Lionsgate motion picture heads Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger to pact with Chicago-based Hyatt Hotel heiress Pritzker to partner with them on more pictures going forward, including Depp action comedy “Mortdecai,” and Ivan Reitman’s sports dramedy “Draft Day,” starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary and Frank Langella, slated for release next year. The arrangement provides a framework for Lionsgate and OddLot to co-produce and co-finance additional pictures that may be sourced by either party, and it provides OddLot with access to committed distribution on certain pictures.
Pritzker has hired some experienced talent to run her company–Sony and MGM veteran Michael Nathanson, who wanted to invest in “Ender’s Game” and ended up working at OddLot instead, First Look Studios’ Bill Lischak, and Red Wagon creative executive Rachel Shane as Executive VP of Production.
Founded in 2005, OddLot so far boasts about a dozen employees who are housed in an airy Culver City office near the Sony studio. Worth an estimated $1.9 billion, Pritzker had produced several films (“Simple Justice,” “The Spirit”) that did not fly before starting OddLot, which backed critically praised “Rabbit Hole” (2010) and Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” (2011). The company has made deals with Robert Rodriguez (“Machete”) and Tom McCarthy (“The Visitor”) and has invested in foreign film sales company Sierra/Affinity as well as Cinetic Media, John Sloss’s New York indie sales and distribution entity.
OddLot partnered with VFX company Digital Domain in raising the budget of “Ender’s Game,” most of which was covered by advance foreign sales. Lionsgate/Summit came through with the rest.
“Mortdecai” is set to begin production this fall with Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany and Olivia Munn on board.