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Reference Library: Handmade Films

Paragon Crafts HandMade Buy
(Hollywood Reporter - May 18, 1994)

By Edwin Riddell

CANNES -- Canada's Paragon Entertainment Corp. has acquired HandMade Films, the company created by former Beatle George Harrison and Denis O'Brien, for $8.5 million in cash in a deal that gives Paragon rights to evergreen titles including Monty Python's ''Life of Brian'' and John Mackenzie's ''The Long Good Friday.''

Although silent as a production entity for some time, HandMade has a library of some 23 films and various distribution rights. The company made a name for itself as the pick of the British independent production entities that flowered in the early 1980s.

Created in 1978, HandMade launched its first feature, ''The Life of Brian,'' a year later with immediate success. The film grossed North American receipts of $21 million.

Subsequent films, although confirming the company's reputation for innovative projects, failed to match that level of theatrical success for the most part but have had a long life on video.

Apart from ''The Long Good Friday,'' the best known of these works are ''Time Bandits'' (1981) by Terry Gilliam, which grossed $46 million in North America; ''Mona Lisa'' (1986) by Neil Jordan; and HandMade's last film, Jonathan Lynn's ''Nuns on the Run'' (1990).

Although Harrison announced his retirement from involvement in the company some time ago, Paragon chairman and CEO John Slan said the acquisition was a key move that would ''maximize Paragon's strengths and extend its reach into international production and distribution markets.''

A publicly traded company, Paragon has its financial and production base in Los Angeles and a further development and production operation in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Paragon's most recent feature in production is Kevin Costner's ''Wyatt Earp,'' due for release by Warner Bros. in June.

''This is a key move for Paragon,'' Slan said in Toronto. ''HandMade is a quality company with tremendous assets.''

The purchase signals yet another studio library snapped up as producers acquire film and TV inventory to exploit in emerging ancillary markets.

Slan explained that, at a time when governments everywhere are deregulating markets and allowing increased competition in a multichannel universe, Paragon saw a need to get ''closer to the end-user.''

That meant acquiring companies -- of which HandMade was only the first -- that would get Paragon into emerging markets such as video games, CD-ROM, pay-per-view and even broadcasting.

Slan said Paragon would announce more acquisitions in the coming months.

The company's worldwide distribution arm, Paragon International, will handle sales and distribution of the HandMade catalog.

Slan added the Handmade facility in London would serve as a base from which Paragon might well develop and produce TV and film projects across the Atlantic, taking advantage of production treaties in place between Canada and Britain.

Paragon added that HandMade Films director of business affairs Gareth Jones, based in London, will remain with the company under its new ownership.

***********************

Harrison Suit Heading To Trial
(Hollywood Reporter - July 14, 1995)

By Carl DiOrio

A motion to dismiss a $20 million-plus suit by former Beatle George Harrison against his longtime manager has been denied by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.

Judge Kathryn Doi Todd rejected the contention of attorneys for former Harrison manager Denis O'Brien that the suit could only be filed in England, said Harrison's attorney, Brian Edwards of the Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman & Machtinger law firm in Los Angeles. Attorneys for the defendant unsuccessfully argued that because Harrison's Handmade Films and Harrisong companies are incorporated in England, the litigation should have been filed there as well, Edwards said.

Both Harrison, who lives in Oxfordshire, England, and O'Brien, now a director and vice chairman of Union Illinois Co. Bank in St. Louis, are scheduled for pre-trial depositions in Los Angeles in two weeks, Edwards said. An attorney for the defendant could not be reached.

Edwards said the discovery-process depositions are considered critical and would not have been possible under British law.

The legal dispute, filed in January, ``concerns the management of (Harrison's) assets -- among other things what happened to proceeds to certain of the films made by Handmade Films.''

O'Brien began his association with Harrison in 1973, Edwards said.

***********************

Harrison Wins $11 mil Award In Contract Suit
(Hollywood Reporter - January 24, 1996)

By Carl DiOrio

George Harrison has been awarded $11 million in compensatory damages in Los Angeles Superior Court as a result of his lawsuit against a former manager over losses incurred in the operation of the former Beatle's HandMade Films production and distribution company, an attorney in the suit said Tuesday.

There was no immediate word on whether defendant Denis O'Brien would appeal the judgment that was handed down last week. The suit, filed Jan. 20, 1995, involved allegations of breach of contract and fiduciary duty, and the disposition of certain assets from HandMade productions.

Harrison's attorney, Brian Edwards of Century City law firm Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman & Machtinger, said the award -- delivered within a year of Harrison's filing the suit -- demonstrates that speedy legal remedies are possible.

"It shows that litigation is often more expeditious than people think it it," Edwards said. "Look at it this way -- it's $1 million a month."

A spokesman for Harrison, on the other hand, said although the ex-Beatle was pleased with the decision, "winning's one thing, collecting's another."

HandMade Films, which is not currently producing movies, made films including "Life of Brian" and "Time Bandits."Airdate: Sunday, Jan. 21, 8-9:30 p.m.

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COURT AFFIRMS $11 MIL HARRISON JUDGMENT
(Daily Variety - Tuesday, February 17, 1998)

The California Court of Appeal has affirmed an $11 million judgment in favor of George Harrison two years ago, when the former Beatle successfully sued Denis O'Brien, his former manager and partner in HandMade Films.

Harrison had asserted in his lawsuit that O'Brien backed out of a 1978 agreement to cover half of loses incurred by HandMade, their indie film production company.

O'Brien appealed Harrison's trial court victory on the grounds that the case should have been tried in England and that, in any event, it was erroneously decided.

The Court of Appeal disagreed, and last week affirmed the trial court's judgment.

...the Appeal Court affirmed... ...1995 judgment granting Harrison $10.9 million, which represented half of the amount of a debt incurred over a film called "Cold Dog Soup."

...The appellate court found that California was an appropriate jurisdiction because O'Brien spent a week each month in the state, had a California driver's license and owned a home in Encino, which was allegedly purchased with some of the disputed funds...


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