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Hoffman, Firestone form distribbery

Venture handling 'Toddlers,' 'Rules'

Hollywood producer/financier Peter Hoffman has teamed with Canuck film and TV investor Jay Firestone to form a foreign sales and distribution company, Seven Arts Intl.

The new entity is essentially a partnership between Paramount-based Seven Arts Pictures, which Hoffman controls, and Firestone’s Fireworks Entertainment, which is owned by Canadian broadcasting giant CanWest.

The partners have appointed Daniel Diamond, former prexy of international distribution and marketing at Franchise Pictures (Daily Variety, Sept. 2), as president of Seven Arts Intl.

According to Hoffman, the new company will be partly financed by Fireworks, which already has a 25% stake in his Seven Arts Pics.

Seven Arts Intl. will have offices in L.A., Toronto and London. “This is all part of the strategic plan that Jay and I have (formulated) to enter the global distribution business,” Hoffman said.

He and Diamond have been busy assembling Seven Arts Intl.’s debut slate, which includes a mixture of studio pics, acquisitions and Seven Arts and Fireworks’ own independent productions.

High-profile beginning

To start with, Seven Arts Intl. is set to handle foreign on two high-profile Paramount productions: the Eddie Murphy starrer “Toddlers” and courtroom drama “Rules of Engagement.”

The $100 million comedy “Toddlers” is a Zucker Bros. production which David Zucker will direct, from a script by Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel and Andy Breckman.

The William Friedkin-helmed “Engagement,” which will cost around $70 million, stars Tommy Lee Jones as an attorney defending a military officer who orders his troops to open fire on a group of civilians.

Producers on “Engagement” are Scott Rudin, Richard Zanuck and Robert Evans.

From sci-fi to classics

Meanwhile, Seven Arts is putting together Patrick Read Johnson’s $40 million sci-fi actioner “Progenitor,” which has Jeff Goldblum in advanced negotiations to star. Domestic distribution on that pic is not set.

And, the company is in the process of acquiring international rights to the Ralph Fiennes starrer “Onegin” from Rysher Entertainment. Seven Arts will also handle select international territories on the Buena Vista Film Sales production of “Duets,” starring Gwyneth Paltrow.

Hoffman described his slate as being “commercial with an edge. They’re all important theatrical movies,” he said.

Partnership with Par

Further down the road, Seven Arts Intl. is likely to partner with Paramount on more pics. And the indie company plans to work with other studios, Hoffman said.

“International distributors need movies that enable them to stand up to the studio competition in their territories,” Diamond added.

Sales already are in an advanced stage on many of the pics. Paramount itself, for example, has licensed U.K., Australia and South Africa to “Toddlers.”

Diamond’s division will handle international on selected lower-budget pics as well, such as the $8 million actioner “Operation Fairfax,” a co-production between Fireworks and British pay TV giant BSkyB.

The link with Hoffman on Seven Arts Intl. cements Firestone’s presence in Hollywood. The backer of TV shows such as “La Femme Nikita” and “Pacific Blue,” may decide to use Diamond’s team for foreign TV sales as well, but no decisions have been taken.

Hoffman, the onetime president of Carolco Pictures, also runs a financing company Cinevisions Ice, together with Graham Bradstreet.

Diamond has held exec positions at Transatlantic Entertainment and Capella Films. He joined Franchise last November.

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