Buy a piece of Ethan Hawke
Producers of 'Billy Dead', new movie starring heartthrob Hawke, are selling shares to the public.
November 20, 2003: 8:15 AM EST
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money Senior Writer
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Producers of the next Ethan Hawke movie have started selling shares in the film over the Internet, a method of financing believed to be the first public offering for a stake in an individual film.
Investors are being given a chance to buy shares in the film "Billy Dead" starring Ethan Hawke.
The shares are going for $8.75 each, with a minimum order of 100 shares for $875 available to investors. Civilian Capital, an affiliate of the film production company that is underwriting the offering, said it expects to sell 900,000 shares in the film, raising a relatively modest $7.2 million after deducting the costs of the offering.
The producers plan to use the proceeds to produce the movie "Billy Dead" next year. The independent film will be a murder mystery based on a 1998 book by Lisa Reardon.
Normally shares in independent films are offered privately to wealthy investors or film companies rather than offered to the public. Big films from major studios can run above $100 million to produce. (Click here for information on shares in the movie).
While the market for initial public offerings (IPOs) has been improving in recent months, the overall number of offerings is still behind year-ago levels.
According to Renaissance Capital, a research firm that tracks IPOs, there have been 42 initial public offerings as of Monday, versus 70 in all of 2002. Those offerings are for shares that are listed on major exchanges, not sold directly on Web sites like this one.
The Securities and Exchange Commission approved the film's offering last week. Civilian Capital President Barry Poltermann said the company has sold about $50,000 in shares so far, with the average investment about $2,500 per investor. It has more orders pending, though, with about 8,000 people having downloaded its offering prospectus so far.
The company has not yet been cleared to sell shares to residents of 13 states, and there are restrictions in some other states, including a minimum net worth for prospective buyers. Poltermann said the company is restricting investors to shares that equal no more than 10 percent of their liquid assets.
"We're trying to make sure that the glamor of the movie business doesn't overwhelm people's judgment," he told CNN/Money. "This should be only a small percentage of a portfolio, for people interested in a speculative investment."
Poltermann said the firm is looking into another IPO for a group of three films to be financed together, but details of that offering won't be released until the current project is completely financed.
The company's prospectus says box office proceeds are to be used first to reimburse shareholders for their original investment. After that, investors will get half the additional revenue, with some actors and creative talent splitting the rest with the film's producers, including Hawke.
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Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co., said that some breakout independent hits such as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "The Blair Witch Project," were among the most profitable films of all time, due to their low costs and big revenue streams, including video as well as box office sales.
But most independent films are not money makers for their investors, he added.
"Out of 400 or 450 movies released every year, maybe 300 are independent films," Dergarabedian said in July, when plans for the IPO were first announced. "The only ones you hear about are the breakouts. They don't all make money. Most don't, even if they only have a $1 million budget. If you break even you're doing great."