Artisan crafts deal

'Last Emperor,' 'Hit' top four-pic package

Artisan Entertainment has licensed the rights to a four-film package from producer Jeremy Thomas that includes “The Last Emperor.”

As part of the deal, Artisan has committed to the theatrical release of a four-hour “director’s cut” of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-winning epic, which starred John Lone, Peter O’Toole and Joan Chen.

The other pics Artisan has acquired from Thomas’ Recorded Picture Co., under a 14-year term, are Stephen Frears’ “The Hit,” starring Terence Stamp, John Hurt and Tim Roth; Nagisa Oshima’s “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence,” starring David Bowie; and Nicolas Roeg’s “Insignificance,” starring Gary Busey and Tony Curtis.

Sales and financing company Summit Entertainment, in which Artisan has a minority stake, already holds international rights to the pictures.

The version of “Emperor” that Artisan will release is Bertolucci’s original, according to Artisan co-prexy Amir Malin. Columbia Pictures edited the film down to 2-1/2 hours for its 1987 U.S. run, when it grossed $44 million.

“This continues our strategy of acquiring the strongest brands and intellectual properties in the marketplace,” Malin said.

Artisan plans to re-release “Emperor,” which won nine Oscars, including best picture and best director, in the fall.

The company will then push it and the other titles to video, digital video disc and television. Artisan owns one of the largest independent libraries in the film business but is well aware that it needs to continually refresh its catalogue as many of the 2,600 titles begin to revert to their original owners.

Paul Gardner, vice president of the office of the president, and Gary Rubin, senior vice president of television, negotiated for Artisan. Peter Watson repped Recorded Picture Co.

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