'Message' first to lens
Producer Steven D. Reuther has christened his new film company, hired several senior executives and unveiled its first development slate.
The company, the vehicle for a five-year, 25-pic co-financing pact between Warner Bros. and Gallic pay-TV giant Canal Plus, will be called Bel Air Entertainment.
Joining Bel Air from Reuther’s previous entity, Douglas/Reuther Prods., are Philip Elway, as senior vice president of business affairs; Kirk Borcherding, as vice president of production administration; and Carol Dantuono, as vice president of post production.
Reuther added that he planned to hire two senior vice presidents of production, and several creative execs. By the time the company is fully staffed, it will have 15 to 25 execs, according to Reuther.
Bel Air’s projects are a mix of new acquisitions and material in development at Reuther’s former entity, Douglas/Reuther Prods., his since-dissolved partnership with Michael Douglas.
Reuther said that WB and Bel Air have acquired the feature rights to the 1960s TV western series “Have Gun Will Travel” from CBS. No writer is currently attached.
“Gun” has been set up at a number of production companies and studios. At one point it was a go pic at WB with Andrew Davis directing and John Travolta to star.
Bel Air will co-finance WB-based producer Mark Canton’s crime drama “Top Ten,” based on a pitch by “Mercury Rising” writer Ryne Douglas Pearson. Canton will produce.
“Ten” is about a killer, No. 10 on the FBI’s most wanted list, who wants to move up the ranks by eradicating his fellow assassins. Trouble is, No. 5 on the list is a government plant.
Another pitch picked up by Bel Air is “Sancto Domini,” an action-adventure involving sunken ships and treasure from director Stephen Cornwell (“Killing Streets,” “Philadelphia Experiment II”).
From the Douglas/Reuther vaults, meanwhile, comes the thriller “The Allegation,” based on a novel by Peter Whalley and scripted by Nancy Fichman and Jennifer Hoppe. Pic will be produced by Reuther’s former partner Douglas — now ensconced in his own new deal at Universal — and Peter Samuelson (“Wilde”), a partner in UK production company Samuelson Prods.
“I will produce some of the films, but it will depend entirely on the project,” said Reuther. “I tend to develop very little that I don’t actually end up making.”
Bel Air had previously announced that it would co-finance WB’s forthcoming Kevin Costner vehicle “Message in a Bottle,” directed by Luis Mandoki.
“Message” will be the first Bel Air pic to begin shooting, probably in the late spring.
Reuther said that WB and Bel Air/Canal Plus will each contribute 50% to the financing of every film.
Canal Plus retains all rights to the Bel Air slate in France and Germany. Canal Plus affiliates AMLF (France) and Tobis (Germany) will handle the films theatrically in those territories.
WB will distribute the films worldwide in all other media. It and Canal Plus are closely linked internationally, however, via long-term pay-TV deals in France and Spain.
At present, Bel Air is operating out of Douglas/Reuther’s old offices at Paramount. The company is planning to move to WB this summer.