The Biz

Happening Housekeeping Deal:

Arnon Milchan vs. Village Roadshow

Arnon Milchan’s New Regency shifted its studio deal in September from Warner Bros. in Burbank to 20th Century Fox in Century City, a distance of approximately 8 miles and about $50 — $60 million bucks (above WB’s offer) in a 15-year $200 million deal. Not adding the discount on Puma shoes for Fox topper Bill Mechanic.

The prolific producer of more than 50 pics, including “Tin Cup,” “JFK,” “The Client,” and this year’s likely Oscar contender “LA Confidential,” is a part-owner of Puma, the sporting goods label.

In moving in with News Corp. topper Rupert Murdoch, Milchan expects to find a wealth of cross-promotional opportunities for his film and athletic apparel company with Fox Sports Net and Fox Kids Net, as well as with the Dodgers baseball franchise, which News Corp. is in the process of buying.

In contention: Oz’s Village Roadshow just signed up with Warner Bros., a deal that WB cochairman Robert Daly says “Partly replaces” the ankled New Regency setup. VR, like NR, will co-finance and self-finance its pics under the WB deal, beginning with “Matrix, ” a mega-budget production starring Keanu Reeves.

Digital Dominator:

George Lucas vs. Digital Domain

Digital Domain created a ship on a chip for “Titanic” helmer James Cameron for more than it would have cost to rebuild the famous vessel. The achievement, headed by effects supervisor Rob Legato, is being hailed a technical marvel that brings the day closer when human digital characters will play leading roles in films.

Now the paradox remains: will Academy Award audiences believe it’s a real boat (as the effect strives to create) or will they see through the seamless digital magic and give Cameron’s visual effects house its first Oscar?

In contention: George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic. The Northern California effects house created the out-of-this world creatures for “Men In Black,” among several other pics this year. Maybe they can give Oscar a break this year, in anticipation of ILM’s upcoming effects extravaganza, “Star Wars.”

Media Metropolis:

Gotham vs. Tinseltown

It’s still a battle between the forces of Gotham and Hollywood. In L.A., the soundstages are booked for months, infrastructure building continues at a torrid pace and everything from blockbusters to sitcoms, infomercials to indie dodge and shoots are framing their shots on every block. NYC continues their major bounce back from the dark days of the ’80s with Tribeca, Astoria and the burbs and boroughs buzzing with filmmaking activity.

In contention: Chicago, S.F., Miami, Vancouver, Toronto and surprisingly, Bean Town is in an upswing, partially thanks to hometown boy Denis Leary.

Dominant Dealmaker:

Bob Bookman vs. Robert Newman

CAA’s Bob Bookman. He’s got the clout with a list chock-a-block with big writers such as Michael Crichton. His $3 million deal with Fox 2000 for Richard Preston’s “Cobra Event.”

In contention: ICM’s Robert Newman, who forged a $20 million film and TV deal with Miramax/Dimension for Kevin Williamson (“Scream,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer”). Other auteur clients include Robert Rodriguez, Milcho Manchevski, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Mike Figgis. Known for taking indies into mainstream.

Financial Behemoth:

Asia vs. Microsoft

Asia’s economic might was demonstrated in a negative way after the region’s financial turndown this year kicked out the slats from under the independent film industry. The indie film sales crowd at the 1997 Mifed were despondent after buyers from Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan were no-shows.

Korea, until recently the sixth largest market for U.S. films, left the biggest impression, with numerous film distribs hastily renegotiating their contracts with sellers. The upside: what goes down must come up.

In contention: Microsoft. When Bill Gates coughs, all business sectors (except agriculture and fishing, perhaps) get a cold. Microsoft’s $11.3 billion in net revenues last year dwarf anything Hollywood can serve up. Their investments in communications and media, such as MSNBC have industryites watching admiringly, yet warily.

Tenacious Tenpercentery:

Endeavor vs. Managers & Producers

Endeavor, since it was formed by a cabal of ICM agents in the middle of the night two years ago, has been steadily building up strength in the shadow of the three major agencies. On the talent side they have Wesley Snipes, Bette Midler, Adam Sandler, Jimmy Smits, Peter Berg, and writers such as Shane Black, Aaron Sorkin Kevin Smith, director Philip Noyce, among others.

In contention: Manager-producers such as Brillstein Grey, Three Arts Entertainment, Palone-Hoflund, More-Medavoy. They’re attaching themselves to talent as producers, taking percentages plus producers fees. Though they say they have good relationships with their agency counterparts, agents across the board are peeved about the creeping encroachment on their turf.

Savvy Suit:

Disney’s Joe Roth vs. Sony’s John Calley

Disney prexy Joe Roth has made everyone forget his predecessor Jeffrey Katzenberg. While animation may not have the same pizzazz, Roth has beefed up live-action with pics such as “Flubber.”

In contention: John Calley. His switch from president of United Artists at MGM to chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment has given him studio already in orbit with a slew of hits such as “Men in Black,” and “Starship Troopers.” If he can build on forward momentum, and not trip over his foray into the James Bond competition, Calley’s move could become legendary in the history of Hollywood suits.

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