Inks three-year first-look deal with MGM

Indie production company Trilogy Entertainment Group (“Backdraft,” “The Outer Limits” series) has inked a three-year, first-look film and TV production deal with MGM.

The pact marks both an extension of the two companies’ successful TV production relationship and the return of Trilogy’s feature side to the MGM pride after an absence of several years.

At the same time, Guy McElwaine — former Columbia Pictures chairman and onetime ICM vice chairman — has joined Trilogy to serve as president of the company’s motion picture division.

Under the new deal, Trilogy will produce features for all Leo film units, including MGM, United Artists and Goldwyn Films. The Trilogy/MGM pact also extends an existing successful TV production relationship between the companies until 2002.

The companies did not release details of the film production plans, such as the number of features they expect to develop during the course of the pact. The Trilogy/MGM TV production slate is already solid, filled with returning series and new projects.

“We really think because of the stability we’ve built, particularly with TV and our long-term relationship with the studio, that it’s not a volume business, but a business of passion and of making movies we are completely committed to,” said Trilogy partner Richard Lewis.

“We are pleased to broaden our alliance with Trilogy, which should further propel the growth of our film and television operations,” said MGM chairman and CEO Frank Mancuso in a statement. “This alliance has proven highly successful for both companies, particularly on the television side, and we look forward to building on this foundation.”

For Trilogy, the MGM deal fills the void left after the company’s first-look deal with Spelling Entertainment disappeared when Spelling shuttered its motion picture operations last month. The relationship with Spelling yielded Trilogy’s most recent feature, period piece “Moll Flanders,” which was written and directed by Trilogy partner Pen Densham and released by MGM in 1996.

“This multifaceted agreement, encompassing both sides of MGM and our new relationship with Guy McElwaine, will allow us to fully expand our lineup of both mainstream and niche film product and to continue our ongoing endeavor of providing high-quality television shows,” Lewis said in statement.

In 1993, incoming MGM chairman Mancuso signed Trilogy to a first-look deal. The agreement ran until 1995, when Trilogy went to Spelling.

Other Trilogy film releases include Kevin Costner/Morgan Freeman starrer “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and Bill Murray comedy “Larger Than Life.”

Trilogy has supplied some TV series critical to the recent revitalization of MGM’s Worldwide TV Group, including Show-time Networks’ “Outer Limits” (now in its fourth season), “Poltergeist: The Legacy,” syndie series “Fame L.A.,” ABC movie “The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three” and upcoming ABC miniseries “Peter Benchley’s Creature.” And last summer CBS ordered Trilogy’s “The Magnificent Seven,” getting MGM a berth back in network TV after a three-year absence.

McElwaine joins Trilogy partners Lewis, Densham and John Watson and production prexy Mark Stern in overseeing Trilogy’s current development. McElwaine has most recently been a film and TV producer with the McElwaine/Hayes Co. at Morgan Creek Prods.

During his tenure at Columbia Pictures, McElwaine oversaw production and distribution of more than 60 pics, including “Ghostbusters,” “The Karate Kid,” “Gandhi,” “Jagged Edge” and “Stand By Me.”

Trilogy will now be represented by ICM on TV as well as feature projects.

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