NEW YORK — The gloves are off between specialized film heavyweight Miramax Films, a unit of the Walt Disney Co., and its newly energized rival October Films, which is majority-owned by Universal Studios.

Miramax, which recently lost senior exec Scott Greenstein to October, has formed an alliance with Avi Lerner and Danny Dimbort’s Nu Image, the Los Angeles-based foreign sales and production company that was previously in October’s camp. During 1995 and 1996, October distributed all of Nu Image’s action and adventure titles in North America, an arrangement that generated a significant portion of October’s revenues and earnings in those years.

Nu Image founded Millennium 18 months ago with Elie Samaha to produce upscale films such as “Shadrach,” starring Andie MacDowell and Harvey Keitel, and “Break Up,” starring Bridget Fonda and Kiefer Sutherland, both of which are currently in production.

Under Miramax’s first-look co-production/distribution pact with Nu Image/Millennium, the two partners will co-produce up to four projects annually, with Miramax distributing the films domestically and in all other English-speaking territories excluding South Africa.

Welcome into Miramax family

“We are thrilled to welcome Avi and Nu Image/Millennium into the Miramax family, and look forward to combining Miramax’s development skills and pool of actors, writers and directors with Nu Image’s ability to create tremendous production values on a cost-effective basis,” said Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein.

“I think this deal is a tremendous boost for Nu Image and Millennium Films, and perfectly matches our production and foreign sales abilities with the tremendous creative expertise and domestic distribution skills of Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Miramax,” said Lerner.

Under Nu Image’s previous accord with October, most of its films were not released theatrically in North America. Instead, they aired on pay TV through October’s output agreement with HBO, and were released to homevideo through October’s deal with Hallmark Home Entertainment.

Nu Image’s agreement with October was supervised by former October co-managing partner Amir Malin, and expired when Malin ankled last month to become co-president of Live Entertainment. Malin’s vacancy was filled by former Miramax senior veepee of motion pictures, music, new media and publishing Greenstein, who joined October last week as co-president alongside partners John Schmidt and Bingham Ray.

Prior to Greenstein’s arrival, Universal Studios acquired a majority interest in October, and announced its plans to take over the distribution of the company’s films in ancillary markets such as free and pay TV and homevideo when its existing agreements expire.

It is not clear whether Nu Image’s product fit in with Universal’s plans for October, which recently formed a foreign sales operation in conjunction with Good Machine Intl. However, Nu Image and Millennium’s action-adventure titles could strengthen Miramax’s genre franchise Dimension Films, whose release “Scream” has grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office.

The deal was negotiated on behalf of Miramax by Andrew Herwitz, senior vice president of acquisitions and business affairs, and Michael Cole, vice president of acquisitions and strategic planning. On behalf of Nu Image/Millennium, the deal was negotiated directly by Lerner.

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