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Hollywood Goes East

Several years of earthquakes, fires, riots and floods have sent an alarmingly high number of Hollywood power-brokers scurrying to New York, with Gotham embracing these mud people with open arms. Most prominent among those who’ve pledged to relocate is Steven Spielberg, although a report that he plans to open a film studio at a Grumman factory in Long Island was debunked by a source close to the director, who said: “He’s more likely to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Other prominent settlers include former 20th Century Fox prexy and chief operating officer Strauss Zelnick, who moved to Manhattan to steer Bertelsmann’s entertainment company, BMG; Sony exec Jeff Sagansky, who’s rumored to be adding support staff; and ABC’s Bob Iger.

Miramax has imported the likes of ex-Columbia exec Mark Gill and Universal’s director of development Cary Granat. Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Prods. has recruited a new senior VP of development and production, Brad Epstein, who recently exited Working Title Films’ Los Angeles office. New Line exec Ruth Vitale moves east to head New Line’s arthouse division, Fine Line, and “Home Improvement” creator Matt Williams is mulling a move back east, where a new series creation might be located.

Producer Edward Pressman’s spending more time in Gotham. Producer John Davis considered a move, but said late last week his wife talked him out of it: “We decided we’d take the rains over the cold weather. We’re staying.” But he is looking to open a Gotham office, a plan also in the works for Robert Redford’s Wildwood Prods. and Laura Ziskin’s unnamed Fox shingle, among others.

Execs have different reasons for moving to Gotham. Some want to be close to the money, others admit they’re tired of a dismal three-year stretch that has included everything but locust infestation. Granat lost two residences to the quake and a mudslide, and sources said the quake stimulated Sagansky and his wife to move. Others moved for a more diverse lifestyle: “I’m not the least bit worried about the earthquakes and mudslides,” said Miramax’s Gill. “What I was terrified of is all the Hollywood inbreeding. It’s nice to know there’s life beyond the Sunday morning grosses.”

BMG’s Zelnick said corporate consolidation will continue to move headquarters close to New York’s financial center, though L.A. will continue to reign when it comes to TV and film production. Like most immigrants, Zelnick still spends a healthy amount of time in Hollywood, but likes his new home. “Sure I miss the fires, the earthquakes, and the riots, but this is an exciting and diverse place to live,” he joked. “You can spend your day in the thick of the entertainment business and spend your evening in an environment that includes many other industries.” Zelnick, speaking like a New Yorker, is already citing New York City’s crime statistics, noting that crime is down 20%. TV and film production is up, which can only be helped by the shift eastward.

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