June 24, 2021

Megan Ellison and Annapurna Pictures Tackle Hollywood

Instead of a goddess, Annapurna Pictures has Megan Ellison, a 25-year-old scion of Silicon Valley, who over the last year or so has been feeding what may soon be hundreds of millions of dollars to the hungriest part of the movie business: the writers, producers, directors and stars who make sophisticated dramas and adventure films that are too risky for studios and their corporate owners.

At least six movies set for release in the coming months received substantial backing from Ms. Ellison and her company. They include “The Master,” a drama about a cult that resembles Scientology that stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and is being directed by Paul Thomas Anderson of “There Will Be Blood” fame. Another high-profile project, still untitled, tackles the killing of Osama bin Laden; it is being written and produced by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, both Oscar winners for “The Hurt Locker.”

Earlier this year, Ms. Ellison bought the rights to the well-worn “Terminator” franchise for a reported $20 million. She is developing a film based on “The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” an article about the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by the departing executive editor of The New York Times, Bill Keller.

In all, it is a remarkable surge for a young woman who earlier this year was such a minor player that her executive producer credit on Paramount’s “True Grit” almost escaped notice: One player on the eight-member producing team said he was unaware of her credit until last week.

But the jury is still very much out on Ms. Ellison, whose father, Lawrence J. Ellison, is the chief executive of Oracle. She is spending money in a particular corner of moviedom, and doing it with a spirit more akin to the freewheeling world of technology start-ups than a film industry entering its second century. But there have been plenty of outsiders — the Seagram heir Edgar Bronfman Jr., eBay’s Jeff Skoll and Microsoft’s Paul Allen — who have been frustrated when they tried to make waves in the movie business.

Ms. Ellison invested in “True Grit” with her 28-year-old brother, David, who last year raised about $350 million in equity and borrowed funds for his own film company, Skydance Productions.

Since then, she has grabbed the limelight by diving into complex — and sometimes expensive — films that might not exist without her backing. Meanwhile, David counts on an alliance with Paramount Pictures and hews closer to the mainstream, making bets on safer pictures like the forthcoming “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.”

“She has this grand vision; she wants to be the one-stop shop for filmmakers,” said Michael Benaroya, 30, a member of a Seattle real estate family who has joined Ms. Ellison in financing a thriller called “Catch .44” and “The Wettest County in the World,” a Prohibition-era crime drama, both of which still await release.

Ms. Ellison declined interview requests.

Friends and business associates describe her as shy, though not too shy to have reportedly posted on MySpace a photo of herself with the caption: “Drunk dialing Dad in Paris after 3 bottles of Dom.” Like her father and brother, Ms. Ellison is not a college graduate, though both she and David attended the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (David is enrolled there, and planning to graduate, according to the school.)

But she is not without focus. A competitive equestrian, she trained on jumpers at the Wild Turkey Farm in Woodside, Calif. Seven years ago, Ms. Ellison rode in the North American Young Rider Championships.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5cb8eff0ec9d1c628de56894f71fe388