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IMAX ‘Courage’ sees stars

In what will likely rank as one of the more unusual deals of 1994, big-screen format IMAX Corp. and TriStar Pictures have partnered on production and distribution of the $ 20 million, 35-minute feature “Wings of Courage,” sources said Wednesday.

Skedded to start production on March 15 in Vancouver and Banff, the movie is slated to be directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud (“The Bear”), while “A River Runs Through It” star Craig Sheffer also has reached a preliminary agreement to star.

Potentially adding oomph to the production would be Charlie Sheen, who has been in negotiations to play a cameo in the pic.

The movie will be shot in 70mm format, but top Sony Pictures Entertainment and IMAX execs are said to have considered tailoring the movie for distribution to more traditional formats in the post-production process. Sony Pix declined comment.

“Wings of Courage” rates as one of the first examples of a major U.S. studio partnering on a big-screen, specialized format movie. TriStar will handle distribution of the film to 102 IMAX theaters worldwide — a dramatic departure for a company that typically mass-markets its films to more than 1,200 screens nationwide.

Bigger deal possible

Sources said “Wings of Courage” could emerge as just one component in a more extensive production agreement between Sony Pix and IMAX, which was sold to special effects stalwart Douglas Trumbull, Cheviot Capital Advisors and merchant bankers Wasserstein Perella in a deal valued at roughly $ 100 million in January. One source said that at least three IMAX projects are already in various stages of development at Sony Pix and TriStar.

Also, “Wings of Courage” rates as one of the most commercial productions to date for a film designed for specialty theaters. Productions made for the specialized venues have centered on such topics as nature, rock concerts and aerial stunts.

The IMAX deal involves several Sony Pictures Entertainment divisions, and has drawn the attention of chairman Peter Guber and Motion Picture Group prez Jonathan Dolgen. The company’s Loews Theatres exhibition circuit is set to open an IMAX venue at its Lincoln Theater complex being built in Manhattan. Top Loews execs are said to be centrally involved in the dealmaking process.

Story of survival

According to an internal development report, the “Wings of Courage” storyline reads: “Bureaucrats entrust one of their biplane fliers with a dangerous mission to fly mailbags earmarked for Europe over a dangerous Andes mountain. The biplane crashes in the mountains, and we follow the pilot’s struggle for survival against the elements.”

Director Annaud inked an exclusive three-year pact with Sony Pictures Entertainment in May, which included provisions for the French filmmaker to produce special-venue product and product for the Sony Wonders children’s shingle (Daily Variety, May 12).

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