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Tartikoff inks Miramax deal… Blum’s on a roll

Twenty-two Oscar nominations is a tough act to follow, but already Miramax Films is branching off into new directions. The Disney-owned production company is making a movie deal with Brandon Tartikoff, best known for steering NBC, Paramount and currently New World Entertainment. The deal will give Miramax an exclusive first look at titles generated from the publishing imprint he formed with Warner Books last year. The projects will be released via either the Miramax or Dimension film labels.

Called Brandon Tartikoff Books, the imprint was forged by Tartikoff and Warner Books topper Lawrence Kirschbaum specifically to generate photogenic titles that could be developed for TV or movie properties early in the writing process.

The deal was put together by Miramax co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein, with the latter serving as pointman along with senior vice president Scott Greenstein, who oversees Miramax’s movies, music, new media and publishing. Tartikoff s negotiations were handled by his William Morris agents Mike Simpson and Robert Gottlieb.

Tartikoff hardly has the time to line-edit books; his hands are full as chairman of New World, which has sold six network pilots, acquired Stephen Cannell’s production company and is developing daytime and latenight projects for Fox and syndication. His main contribution is choosing writers and stories with a high film potential.

For the Weinstein brothers, the deal was a chance to renew an association with Tartikoff that began when Miramax sold Paramount homevideo and TV product. “We’re forming a relationship with this deal but we feel this is a first step leading into a lot of other ventures,” said Bob Weinstein. “He’s entrepreneurial and there are lots of ways we can be in business together.”

Among the Tartikoff titles that Miramax will get are “Strange Highways,” a collection of short stories and novellas by Dean Koontz; Cathy Cash Spellman’s “Playground of the Gods”; Shirley Lord’s fashion thriller “The Crasher”; and “Superstitious,” the first adult novel by R.L. Stine, who has 21 of the top 150 young adult titles on the USA Today bestseller list.

“Superstition” is about a young New England college professor who becomes possessed by demons. Sources indicate the Stine book is a strong contender to become the first film project from the new deal.

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