'Austin Powers' sequel first in line

FROM MIFED
MILAN — New Line Intl. has embarked on a wide-ranging effort to renew its international distribution deals.

To start with, New Line has inked a pact with Germany’s Kinowelt Medien. The deal, which is worth a potential $60 million to the U.S. studio, will see the German distrib releasing all NL pics through 2001. The deal includes all theatrical, video/DVD and TV rights to at least 22 New Line pics.

The first title under the deal will be the Mike Myers sequel spoof “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”

New Line Intl. prexy Rolf Mittweg said that over the next six months, he would ratify new deals with Entertainment Film Distributors (U.K.), Medusa (Italy) and Village Roadshow (Australia), while he also is likely to renew with Aurum (Spain) and Metropolitan (France).

Delving into new areas

Mittweg said he intended to forge output deals for the first time in Benelux and Scandinavia, where he is talking to a number of possible partners. As with Kinowelt, the other new deals will be for New Line’s upcoming production slate and will run through 2001.

The total value of the deals to the company is likely to top $300 million. During its 1997 financial year, New Line earned $290 million in gross international sales.

Separately, in Japan, where it still works with up to three distribs, New Line has sold a package of three pics to Nippon Herald: “Austin Powers,” “Blast From the Past” and “Jello Shots.”

New Line is in a strong position to renew its deals now, given its run this year at the domestic box office, where its hits have included “Rush Hour,” “The Wedding Singer” and “Blade.” New Line’s comedy “Pleasantville” has also done well the past two weeks. Many of its 1998 pics have yet to be released overseas.

Targeting back end

Given this hot streak — a complete turnaround from just a year ago, when the company was suffering through a string of flops — Mittweg said that he intended to secure “a more advantageous backend” for New Line.

Most of the company’s international deals are negotiated on the basis of foreign distribs paying the studio minimum guarantees based in turn on a percentage of the budget formula. New Line shares in the profits of films that perform well.

The new deals will cover pics such as “Lost Souls,” starring Winona Ryder, “The Bachelor,” starring Chris O’Donnell and New Line’s “Lord of the Rings” franchise, which goes into production under Peter Jackson’s helm next year.

Leading position

For Kinowelt, which previously shared New Line with rival distrib Concorde, the deal establishes it as a leading German distrib. Kinowelt also handles product from Miramax Films, October Films and Alliance Pictures, among others.

Kinowelt paid $8 million for several Miramax titles and $7 million for six movies from October Films.

Mittweg negotiated the German deal directly with Kinowelt managing directors Rainer and Michael Koelmel.

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