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Independently Wealthy

Tuesday, 1 May 2007 | 10:53 AM ET

The Tribeca Film Festival is underway in New York City and although it boasts an "indie" film appeal, private equity and hedge fund investors are looking to bank on its marketability. CNBC's Hollywood reporter Julia Boorstin reports from the event.

The festival was launched in 2002 by actor/director Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in an attempt to revitalize the festival's namesake downtown neighborhood -- where De Niro works and lives -- after the economic devastation of 9/11.

In its first year, the film festival -- which also includes music and cultural activities -- generated about $10 million in economic activity for the cause. Last year, it had grown to $120 million.

Tribeca Film Festival
The big business of mega brands that team up with Tribeca, with CNBC's Julia Boorstin

This year the festival hopes to double that amount and broaden its demographic reach with its various partnerships, especially with heavy hitters like ESPN and Sony Pictures, whose powerful mainstream appeal helps bring in more attendees -- especially those of the younger male variety. Launching the U.S. premiere of Sony's Spider-Man 3 at the festival attracts "another group of people who wouldn't normally just say, 'I'm going to a film festival'" according to festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal. And where money talks, she adds, "a number of our sponsors also urged us to figure out how to hit that 18-25 young male."

Indie Films
Many investors are taking the risky step of putting their money in indie films, with Julia Boorstin, CNBC entertainment reporter; Michael Bassick, MJB Ventures CEO and CNBC's Bill Griffeth

And along with big name partnerships come big deal investors. Private equity and hedge fund companies have been known to run the high risk of investing in Hollywood's major motion pictures that have big money distribution deals, but banking on the smaller "indie" films can be an even riskier bet. CNBC's Bill Griffeth talks to Michael Bassick, CEO of MJB Ventures, an investment boutique that funds indie films. On analyzing the factors that create 20%-plus returns, Bassick says "it's about finding the right project with the right package, produced at the right budget level that's got some global appeal and is truly a mainstream commerce play versus pure art."

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