Lightstorm clouds over Artisti

This article was corrected on October 19, 1992. Artisti Associati’s nine-film pact with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment is not in jeopardy, despite rumors to that effect circulating in both the United States and Europe as reported Friday in Daily Variety.

Larry Kasanoff, president of Lightstorm, said his company has a signed contract with Artisti as its distributor in Italy and that no change whatsoever has occurred in that arrangement.

Jacopo Capanna, one of Artisti’s three toppers and head of the Italian Distributors Association, also vehemently denied the rumors.

Two of the year’s most talked-about pickups engineered by Italian distrib Artisti Associati appear to be seriously in danger. And in the case of one–the highly touted nine-pic pact with James Cameron’s Lightstorm–UIP is expected to come to the rescue.

Rumors in both Hollywood and in Europe that Artisti’s deal with Cameron’s Lightstorm has fallen apart were vehemently denied by Jacopo Capanna, one of the company’s three toppers and head of the Italian Distributors Assn.

“We absolutely hold Italian rights to the Cameron package,” he told Daily Variety. Other distribs in Rome, however, believe the package is open for bidding again.

Neither Cameron nor Lightstorm prexy Larry Kasanoff could be reached for comment yesterday.

But sources close to the players involved say United Intl. Pictures, which currently holdssome of the foreign distribution rights, will probably pick up the Italian rights should the become available. Twentieth Century Fox holds the domestic distribution rights.

Although exact terms of the Cameron deal were never disclosed, the films are calculated to be worth at least $ 40 million apiece, bringing the total to more than $ 360 million.

When the deal came to light at Cannes, market analysts speculated that Artisti may have offered 8% of the budget for Italian rights. Sources in Hollywood, familiar with the pact, confirmed that amount yesterday.

In the case of the other foiled pickup, the $ 8 million contract Artisti signed for Italian rights to Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Little Buddha,” budgeted at close to $ 30 million, was terminated by CIBY 2000 when the Italian company attempted to renegotiate terms of the contract, according to sources in both Europe and Hollywood.

Those familiar with competitive bids for that project say Artisti grossly overbid to beat out the competition. They insist the Italian rights were only worth about $ 4.5 million.

Artisti, which releases Fox product, has risen rapidly in the last two years. Thanks to “Alien3,””Double Impact” and “My Cousin Vinny,” it opened the fall season as Italy’s No. 3 distrib, following Penta and Warner Bros. It was unclear yesterday whether that arrangement will be upset by Artisti’s latest problems.

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