Sydney (AFP) – A consortium led by Australian billionaire James Packer and US director Brett Ratner has struck a reported $450 million co-financing deal with Warner Brothers to cover the production of 75 movies.
Casino mogul Packer said the multi-year arrangement with his investment vehicle RatPac-Dune Entertainment was effective immediately.
It covers upcoming releases including "Gravity" with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, "Grudge Match" starring Robert de Niro and Sylvester Stallone as well as projects with Clint Eastwood ("Jersey Boys") and Russell Crowe ("The Water Diviner").
"This is certainly not the dumbest thing I've ever done. Whether it works perfectly is another question," Packer told the Australian Financial Review on Tuesday, speaking about his new direction.
Since his father Kerry's death in 2005, Packer has shifted the family business away from its traditional media operations and focused on creating Crown, a worldwide gambling empire.
He operates casinos in Melbourne, Perth and Macau and is planning complexes in Manila and Sri Lanka, with Japan also in his sights.
As well as developing his US business interests, Packer said he hoped to tap into the booming Chinese entertainment market through Rat-Pac Dune, whose third partner is Dune Entertainment boss Steven Mnuchin.
"There is a globalisation play here," he told the newspaper.
"There is a real chance to grab the opportunity in China. In 10 years' time, the Chinese box office will have overtaken the United States.
"I'd like to see my business interests spread out evenly across the US, Australia and China."
In a statement, Warner Bros chief executive Kevin Tsujihara said the deal covers films from all genres and budgets. No figure was put on its worth although the Financial Review said it was $450 million.
"This agreement gives us increased strength and flexibility in the motion picture division and an even greater ability to manage risk as we continue to produce high-quality filmed entertainment for the global audience," Tsujihara said.
"We look forward to working with their team as we move forward in this exciting new partnership with a truly great organisation."
Ratner, best known for directing such hits as the "Rush Hour" trilogy, said that, like Packer, he was also keen to branch out beyond Hollywood films into the lucrative Chinese entertainment industry.
"James is very savvy about Asia and understands the culture," Ratner told the newspaper.