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DDLC tightens budget belt

Dino De Laurentiis Communications has shuttered its acquisitions division and will lay off some support personnel under pressure from its banks to slash its overhead by $ 1.5 million a year.

The belt-tightening move immediately affects the jobs of senior VP of acquisitions and production Anne Templeton, acquisitions director Sara Rose and Templeton’s secretary.

According to DDLC prexy Stephen Deutsch, the scale-back will ultimately hit “a handful of people,” including some who work in support areas of the company.

Deutsch said the action is specifically designed to cut DDLC’s present overhead of $ 6.5 million a year (excluding development and production costs) to $ 5 million.

“We want to keep our overhead at or below $ 5 million,” he said. “With all independent companies in this marketplace today, ongoing overhead costs are the bane of our existence. This change, however, will not affect our production schedule.”

By getting out of the acquisitions business and concentrating solely on production, Deutsch explained that the savings will come not only in the area of salaries but in the elimination of travel for festivals and other entertainment-related expenses.

DDLC also has terminated its month-to-month arrangement with a New York book scout, Deutsch confirmed, noting, “Most major books come through the major agencies and because we get such good service, it was an extravagance we didn’t need.”

Templeton, who joined the company in September 1990 after leaving her 3 1/2 -year post as VP acquisitions at the Samuel Goldwyn Co., worked in development and production as well as acquisitions. In April, her duties were expanded to include more responsibility in production (Daily Variety, April 10).

Performance not a factor

Deutsch stressed that Templeton’s termination, which becomes effective in 90 days, had “nothing to do with performance.” Templeton, he said, “did a wonderful job for DDLC … Anne’s contribution was enormous, and we will miss her.”

During her tenure at DDLC, Templeton was responsible for the acquisition of Madonna’s documentary “Truth or Dare” and “Three Ninjas.” She also was instrumental in the company’s purchase and development of Michael Korda’s best-selling novel “The Immortals,” which was adapted by Cynthia Cidre; “Family Zoo” (formerly “Daddy’s Home”), which was rewritten by Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling; and the CBS miniseries based on the Bible.

Templeton, whose contract was up and in the midst of being renegotiated when the layoffs hit, said yesterday, “I loved working with Dino and Steven and am extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.”

Deutsch said DDLC’s strategy for going forward is to make two- to-four movies a year. The company’s 73-year-old chairman, producer Dino De Laurentiis, “doesn’t want to be under constant pressure of having to make movies he doesn’t want to make,” Deutsch added.

In 1993, DDLC plans to put four pix into production. Two are scheduled to go next spring: the “Marilyn Monroe Project,” based on Korda’s novel “The Immortals ,” to which a director is expected to be attached within the next month; and “Family Zoo,” a high-concept family comedy about a zoo director sentenced to house arrest for something he didn’t do, for which a director will be secured by January.

Targeted to begin next summer is “Timers,” an expensive sci-fi effects pic from a script by Nick Theil. A deal is rumored to be close with director Uli Edel, who helmed DDLC’s Madonna-starrer “Body of Evidence.’

Deutsch said the company would also “like to get the litigation cleared” on “Milk Money,” a spec script over which DDLC is suing screenwriter John Mattson and his agent Rima Greer, “so we can get started on the production next summer” (Daily Variety, Nov. 24).

In its suit, DDLC alleges that Greer had a verbal agreement to sell the company “Milk Money” for $ 1 million, then reneged on the deal and sold the script to Paramount for $ 1.1 million.

“Our position is we own the script and want to make the movie,” Deutsch stressed.

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