United Artists, the film company run by actor Tom Cruise and Chief Executive Paula Wagner, said on Thursday it raised $500 million through Merrill Lynch to fund 15 to 18 movies over the next five years.

Wagner called the financing a milestone event for United Artists, which was revived last year by Cruise, Wagner and their studio partner, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

It leaves us perfectly poised to realize our vision of making movies that are both important and commercial, Wagner said in a statement.

Financial details were not disclosed.

One of Hollywood's biggest box office draws, Cruise has starred in blockbusters like Mission: Impossible and Oscar contenders such as Jerry Maguire.

But last year, Cruise's long-time studio partner Paramount Pictures cut its ties to Cruise and Wagner following the release of Mission: Impossible III -- an international hit with $264 million at overseas box offices, but only a modest success with $134 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales.

Cruise and Wagner went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer where they partnered with the studio behind the James Bond movies to revive United Artists.

Separately, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer spokesman refuted a published report that Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank had withdrawn from underwriting $1 billion in financing for MGM.

MGM's Jeff Pryor said the studio never had a firm deal with Goldman Sachs or Deutsche Bank, so there was never a commitment from which to withdraw.

We are confident we will come to (a financing package for MGM), but we are not in any hurry to do a slate deal, Pryor said. Slate is used to describe a group of upcoming films.

Pryor added that MGM's priority was completing the United Artists funding, which demonstrated that even in tough market conditions, good product will always prevail.

United Artists said it expects to release four to six films a year. First up is Drama Lions for Lambs, directed by Robert Redford and set for a November release. Beyond that, World War II thriller Valkyrie will hit theaters in the summer of 2008.

MGM is owned by a consortium of companies including private equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Providence Equity Partners, Sony Corp and Comcast Corp.