Morgan Creek, Franchise firm distrib'n pact

Morgan Creek Prods. and Elie Samaha and Ashok Amritraj’s Franchise Entertainment have hammered out a co-production and co-financing distribution pact, as expected, which will involve at least 15 pics over the next five years.

The films, which include a Sylvester Stallone starrer and a Johnny Depp/John Malkovich pic, will be distributed in North America and selected foreign territories by Morgan Creek through Warner Bros.

Franchise will handle distribution throughout the rest of the world through inhouse foreign sales.

The deal resembles WB’s arrangement with Village Roadshow. It should be a boon for Warner, which gains access to a flow of product that it will not have to finance.

For Franchise, it means high-profile attention for its product, which will get domestic distribution by WB.

Samaha and Robinson will produce, and Amritraj will exec produce four Morgan Creek pics. They will also jointly produce other features, some of which will include outside producers, to be distribbed and marketed by Morgan Creek through WB.

One of the pics expected to be part of the deal from Morgan Creek is “What Makes Sammy Run?” starring and directed by Ben Stiller. Bill Gerber, Samaha, Budd Schulberg (who wrote the novel), James Robinson and Gene Kirkwood are producing. Amritraj is exec producing.

Among the Franchise projects in development are:

  • “Ernie Popovich,” starring Sylvester Stallone. Samaha, Gerber and Mark Canton will produce.

  • “The Libertine,” starring Johnny Depp and John Malkovich and helmed by Malkovich.

  • “Black Angel,” produced by Samaha, Amritraj and Julie Yorn and likely to star Samuel L. Jackson.

  • “Chasing the Dragon,” with plans for Wesley Snipes to star, produced by Snipes and Kimiko Jackson of Amen Ra Films along with Samaha and Amritraj.

  • “American Iron,” helmed by Walter Hill.

  • “Shi,” an action adventure with a heroine-based comic book character.

  • “Head in the Clouds,” directed by John Duigan.

  • “Double Nickels,” helmed by Yves Simoneau.

Jim Miller, prexy of worldwide theatrical business operations for WB, was the architect behind the plan.

Predicted outcome

“My interest is obvious,” Miller said. “I introduced Jim to Elie, hoping I would get the outcome that I got so that I would become the distributor of the product they would do together.

“I just had an inkling that they would respect one another. They’re on the same business wavelength. I think it’s a win-win-win situation for everyone.”

Samaha was equally gleeful about the deal. “While Franchise was approached by several of the major studios, we chose Morgan Creek because we know they will be active partners in this venture, with real commitment to our movies,” Samaha said.

Robinson lauded the pact as an “important addition” to the slate of Morgan Creek product.

“This is part of a larger strategic plan to continue our growth as a producer and distributor and as a home for the finest creative talent making movies today,” Robinson added.

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