Col caught in ‘Stooge’ fund flap

Newly discovered development figures on the “The Three Stooges” film project show that Columbia Pictures is claiming it spent more than $ 1.5 million during two years of pre-production, while sources close to the project can only account for $ 1,119,195.

The film project, which has not been made, was thrust into the spotlight last week when a complaint was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court (Daily Variety, Aug. 11) seeking to end a contractual relationship with Columbia. Since then, questions continue to be raised about potential cost overruns on the project.

Columbia sources have indicated that the “Stooges” film may have had funds written against it for illicit activities.

Figures obtained by Daily Variety show Col is reporting that it paid $ 731, 250 to Norman Maurer Prods. and $ 100,000 to Jeffrey Scott Prods., the two owners of the “Stooges” trademark.

The studio said it spent an additional $ 700,000 on writers and other creative production personnel for pre-production.

Approximately $ 412,000 of that $ 700,000 has been called into question by Norman Maurer and Jeffrey Scott in their ongoing litigation against Columbia. According to figures obtained, the $ 412,000 adds up to about a third of the pre-production budget.

It was revealed Monday that an investigation into cost overruns on the project was going to be part of ongoing litigation between Maurer Prods. and Colpix.

Attorney Gregg Homer, representing Maurer, said Monday that he was asking the studio to open its books on where the money for “Stooges” development went. He would not comment on the development figures.

Columbia outside counsel Louis Meisinger referred calls to Columbia. A Colpix spokesman declined comment, as the studio has consistently done in recent weeks since the Heidi Fleiss scandal broke.

Homer declined comment on the specifics of the investigation.

The trademark owners, explaining their efforts to nullify the contract with Columbia, say that studio execs reneged on promises to produce the film.

Sources said that litigation ensued after efforts to put the film into turnaround failed. Columbia has had the project since 1988 and has yet to move beyond early development stages, sources say.

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