Canton in talks with Summit

Mark Canton, the former chairman of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Cos., is in talks with Summit Entertainment and its president and CEO Patrick Wachsberger to raise money to build a production company that would finance six films over three years. Canton’s talks with Wachsberger come after months of speculation about where Canton would land.

Summit is trying to structure a deal in which Canton’s production company would directly sell an average of two pictures a year in the $60 million-to- $80 million budget range to foreign distributors over a three-year period, Wachsberger confirmed to Daily Variety. Summit would act as sales agent in non-strategic territories.

Canton’s business partner is Allen Shapiro, the former IndieProd president who helped raise $100 million for Dan Melnick’s company and put together an offer for troubled indie Samuel Goldwyn Co. in 1995. The production company would bear Canton’s name.

Conjunction, alignment

The deal structure would be in conjunction with a large equity partner who would cover development and overhead. In addition, the company would align with a major studio for domestic distribution.

Several Hollywood studios are now looking for deals that bring in outside financing, including Paramount Pictures (which has led the charge), Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. — all of which are run by executives with whom Canton has relationships.

Canton earlier had talked with a number of studios about setting up a production deal. He also had talks with Arnon Milchan about running Milchan’s New Regency. There was some speculation that he might partner with his friend, producer Jon Peters, at Warner Bros.

Sources said interest has reignited at some of the studios now that a number of films set up under the Canton regime have started to hit. Those include “Jerry Maguire,” a comedy for which Canton paid Tom Cruise $20 million to star; the “The Fifth Element,” which grossed $17 million over the weekend; and the sleeper hit “Anaconda,” which has grossed $53 million to date. He also paid Harrison Ford $20 million to star in the July 25th release “Air Force One,” and he greenlit “Men in Black” and the big-budget sci-fi thriller “Starship Troopers.”

Foreign distributors contacted by Summit have shown interest in building a slate that would include the heavy star-power evidenced under the Canton regime. Canton exited Sony Pictures Entertainment in September after a shakeup that ultimately culminated in a complete overhaul of the studio’s management team.

Summit was formed as a foreign sales company in a joint venture of Bernd Eichinger’s Constantin Films, Milchan’s New Regency and Andy Vanja’s Cinergi Prods. The joint- venture partners were subsequently bought out by Wachsberger and partners David Garrett and Bob Hayward. Summit has been the sales agent for Cinergi’s “Evita,” “Judge Dredd” and “Die Hard With a Vengeance.”

It also has been selling “Seven Years in Tibet” and “Gloria,” from Peter Guber’s Mandalay Entertainment. Other properties it is selling are “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Deep Rising” and “An Alan Smithee Film.”

It’s not clear what Summit’s success has been so far in Cannes in selling Canton’s company. The festival opened May 7 and runs through Sunday.

Attorney Jake Bloom, who is in Cannes, is representing Canton in the deal. Canton had no comment.

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