NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
For less than the cost of some movie tickets, you can own a piece of a film starring heartthrob Ethan Hawke.
Chicago-based Civilian Capital Inc. plans to sell 900,000 shares of stock for $8.75 a share to finance the murder mystery, "Billy Dead." After commissions, the company expects to raise $7.3 million through the offering.
|Investors are being offered a chance to invest in a new independent film starring Ethan Hawke, shown here in "Training Day," for only $8.75 a share.
While most of the major studios, and even some minor players, are publicly traded, this is believed to be the first U.S. public offering for shares in a specific film. The shares are in Billy Dead Inc., a company formed for the purpose of making this one film. It is expected to be dissolved and have its assets turned over to investors once the film has taken in all expected box office, video and distribution rights revenue.
Hawke, who starred in "Gattaca" and "Before Sunrise" and was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in "Training Day," is expected to star in the movie, according to the offering prospectus (PDF file). He is also acting as the film's executive producer.
Keith Gordon, director of "Waking the Dead" and "Midnight Clear," which also starred Hawke, has agreed to direct the picture.
The movie is based on the 1998 book "Billy Dead: A Novel" by Lisa Reardon. The story is about the search for the killer of the generally unlikable brother of the story's hero, set in a blue-collar Michigan town.
|For more information
Risk factors listed in the prospectus include the chance that the film will not raise the proceeds needed to reimburse investors, the chance that the movie could go over budget and require additional investors, and that the offering price was set without any consideration of assets, earnings, or book value and therefore might not be supported by market prices.
Civilian Capital CEO Peter McDonnell owns a Chicago brokerage firm and has not worked in films before. But he says he believes this can be a model for financing of independent films in the future.
"Limited partnerships fees can run anywhere from 7 percent up to 20 percent," he said. "These will be on the low end of that. And we felt by lowering the barrier (to invest), we're letting consumers who want to see these sort of independent films made be involved."
Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co., said that some breakout independent hits such as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Blair Witch Project" were among the most profitable films of all time, due to the low budget and large box office. But he said that most independent films are not money makers for their investors.
"Out of 400 or 450 movies released every year, maybe 300 are independent films. The only ones you hear about are the breakouts. They don't all make money. Most don't, even if they only have only a $1 million budget," Dergarabedian said. "If you break even you're doing great."
Dergarabedian said most independent films don't even have the advantage of a known star like Hawke going for them.
"If this [financing] is successful, I'm sure others will try to emulate it," he said. "But if you have no names in that cast, I don't know how you'll get anyone interested in investing."
The company has not yet started to sell shares. It has up to six months to do so under this prospectus, and the film would then take about 8 to 14 months to complete.
A peek at movie financing
The prospectus gives an interesting look into the business side of a relatively low-budget independent Hollywood film.
The preferred A shares being offered will have only one-third of the voting rights of the company, giving management of company control over the film's production. The funds raised by the offering are expected to provide virtually all the financing for the film, making it a fairly low-budget picture by Hollywood standards. The prospectus says that financial contributions by the company's founders would be "nominal."
The prospectus says pre-production and filming is expected to cost about $2.7 million, while $2.1 million is to go to development costs, intellectual property costs, and guaranteed salary paid to the creative talent. Marketing and distribution costs are expected to be raised under an agreement with the film's eventual distributor.
Box office proceeds are to be used first to reimburse the shareholders for their original investment. Then 37.5 percent of the additional proceeds would go to pay actors and other creative talent who are to receive a percentage of box office. After those payments are made, the preferred shareholders will split 80 percent of the profit, while common shareholders, which include management of the film, will get 20 percent.
Click here for a look at media and entertainment stocks
The prospectus said the company, formed last September, already has spent about $28,000 through March 30. That includes a $10,000 option for the movie rights to the book, although if the company goes ahead with the movie it will have to pay an additional but undisclosed rights fee.