Jersey Eyes U; Scorsese Stays In Place

Danny DeVito and Michael Shamberg’s Jersey Films, which has produced such films as “Pulp Fiction” and “Get Shorty,” is leaving Sony Pictures Entertainment after three years. Negotiations are under way with Universal Pictures for a multiyear, first-look deal, sources said.

Though sources close to negotiations say Disney has held talks with DeVito about bringing Jersey to Burbank, Disney execs insist that’s not true.

Sources also said Jersey Films is a rich deal for any studio, involving significant producer fee advances, substantial overhead, and a big discretionary fund.

Potential deal a U coup

Jersey and U production executives have a prior relationship, having worked together on Jersey’s “Reality Bites.” The move would be considered a coup for U, which is said to be heavily pursuing the production company, but there is no deal yet. Jersey Films’ deal with Sony expires next spring. Jersey would not comment.

Although Disney and Martin Scorsese were in talks about a possible three-pic directing deal that would have taken the “Casino” helmer off the lot, insiders at U said Scorsese is staying put.

That word comes after newly named MCA motion picture chairman Casey Silver flew to New York to meet with Scorsese earlier in the week. U had no comment on either Jersey or Scorsese.

Jersey is the fourth production company to leave Sony, following those of David and Jerry Zucker and John Singleton to U (see related items, page 19) and Michelle Pfeiffer to Disney.

Jersey, the Zuckers and Singleton were all based at Sony. The studio is said to be taking a hard look at its film agreements and declining to renew several deals.

However, sources close to Jersey Films indicated that the company has been looking to move off the lot for some time.

In the three years that the company was based in Culver City, all its movies but two have been made at other studios.

Sony is housing several major deals with Peter Guber’s Mandalay Entertainment, Mike Medavoy’s Phoenix Pictures and Stanley Jaffe Prods.

Although all companies have outside financial support or are relying on international sales, Sony is shouldering a heavy financial commitment. Insiders at the studio confirm that Sony is paring down its filmmaker commitments to reduce its overhead, but would not say why. Sony had no comment.

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