Frat fright firmed; Munster movie mulled

MICHAEL FLEMING IS ON VACTION. HE RETURNS THURSDAY, JULY 30. The column below originally ran July 21, 1998

* * *

FORTIFYING ITS FRIGHT franchises, Dimension Films has paid a mid- against high six-figure sum for “Ghosting,” a screen adaptation of a horror comic book series that will be published in fall 1999.

The property was created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, the chairman/producer of Platinum Studios, who previously set up with Dimension “Dead of Night” a film based on the European comic “Dylan Dog.” He also set up “Cowboys & Aliens” at Universal and DreamWorks.

The deal was made by Dimension co-chairman Bob Weinstein, who’s looking for a new “Scream” franchise and felt that “Ghosting” — about fraternities and sororities that replace the cruel and outlawed hazing process with a hair-raising substitute — could fit the bill. “There are classic horror films like ‘The Shining’ and ‘Poltergeist,’ ” said Weinstein. “I think ‘Ghosting’ will be in that category.”

The concept was hatched by Rosenberg, who’ll produce along with Platinum Studios co-head Ervin Rustemagic, with production veep Gregory Noveck co-producing.

In “Ghosting,” Rosenberg explained, “pledges are scared to death and psychologically abused. If a pledge is afraid of heights, he might wake up and find his bed on top of the frat house.” A new horror character on the order of “Nightmare on Elm Street’s” Freddy Krueger will be introduced to torque up the campus shrieking.

Rosenberg has put together quite a string of comic-to-screen transformations. While he owned Malibu Comics, he brokered the sale of “Men in Black,” among others. Since selling that comic label to Marvel, he set up “Cowboys & Aliens” at Columbia in a $500,000 against $1.5 million deal. Steve Oedekerk dropped out, but Jeffrey Boam is now writing the script.

Rosenberg sold “Dead of Night” in a Dimension deal worth $750,000 against $1.5 million. Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer are writing the script, with Breck Eisner, a commercials helmer, ready to direct. The “Ghosting” sale had slightly lower upfront numbers, but more favorable backend position.

Dimension’s Weinstein and president Cary Granat made the deal with Platinum reps Alan Gasmer and Paul Bricault of William Morris and attorney Bob Wyman.

“MUNSTER” MOBILE: The last time director Brian Levant and producer Ben Myron pitched Universal execs to turn a TV series into a film, they had Barbara Billingsley, in her original June Cleaver outfit, serve milk and cookies to U cronies who bought “Leave It to Beaver.”

Last week, Levant and Myron came up with a unique pitch for a screen version of the Universal TV series “The Munsters.” Levant sets the scene: “We met (U production execs) Eric Hughes and Stacey Snider with the original ‘Munster Koach,’ this hearse that was transformed into a drag racer.”

The slightly surprised execs were raced over to Levant’s smoke-filled bungalow, where Levant got to show off his extensive collection of Munsters lunch boxes and other memorabilia while the 1966 film “Munsters Go Home” played on a monitor. Levant then started the pitch to try and scare up a movie deal for “The Munsters Rise Again.”

“The Munsters are driven from Transylvania and arrive in America and become an immigrant success story,” said Levant. “Essentially, it’s ‘Avalon’ with ‘Frankenstein.’ ” Levant feels the show would translate as well to film as “The Addams Family,” and that vast improvements can be made over the original: “The dragon under the stairs was smoke and two red lights for eyes! We can have a proper dragon, battling ghosts, all that stuff.”

Levant noted another connection regarding the transporting of the execs in the Munster Koach: “Eric wore a black suit and he’s 6-foot-6, and I think the last person who fit that description and rode in it was Herman Munster.” They’re waiting to hear if U will make the film.

RHIMES RISKS WRITER’S CRAMP: Screenwriter Shonda Rhimes has made a low- against mid-six figure deal with Imagine and Universal for her romance pitch “The Other Woman,” the latest in a flurry of deals for the scribe.

Rhimes just closed a three-picture deal at Miramax that calls for her to write and direct “When Willows Touch,” to star Jada Pinkett, James Earl Jones, CCH Pounder and Omar Epps, with Ann Carli and Michael Palmieri producing. Rhimes had to wait until next summer because Pinkett had a baby, but she’s using the time to write her second Miramax project, “Hettie Jones,” based on the memoirs of the woman married to Amira Baraka, which covers the death of the beat movement. Ann Carli is producing.

Rhimes also just finished rewriting “Love for Hire,” the screenplay Pinkett and Will Smith wrote together as a starring vehicle for themselves. Imagine is producing that film at U. Rhimes’ spec script “Human Seeking Same” has Demi Moore committed to star for New Line.

It’s a romantic comedy about a cynical white woman who falls in love with a younger black man when she answers the wrong personal ad. Greg Foster and Josie Rosen are the producers.

Finally Rhimes has completed reworking “The Dorothy Dandridge Story” at HBO. Martha Coolidge has committed to direct Halle Berry as the troubled actress, with Josh Mauer, Vincent Cirrincione, Moctesuma Esparza, Bob Katz and Halle Berry producing.

Rhimes is managed by Brooke Wharton, also her attorney, and she’s agented by Justen Dardis of APA.

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