UA Films to make ‘Things’

Garcia helming ensemble cast

In its first acquisition as the new specialized division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists Films is in advanced negotiations to buy all North American rights to the romantic comedy “Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her.”

Pic, produced by Avnet-Kerner Co.’s Jon Avnet, features an ensemble cast of Cameron Diaz, Calista Flockhart, Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Kathy Baker and Gregory Hines. It tells interwoven stories about love and loss in the lives of five women.

“Things” was written and directed by former cinematographer Rodrigo Garcia, and marks his feature directorial debut. Elie Samaha’s Franchise Pictures financed the film, and is handling international sales.

Sundance pedigree

“Things,” which is in post-production, lensed earlier this summer in the U.S. Project originated at the Sundance Institute’s 1998 January Screenwriters Lab.

“Things” is the first pic that UA has bought, under a new plan that repositions it as MGM’s specialized division. UA is now focusing on producing and acquiring eight pics a year, with budgets of less than $20 million. The studio is targeting the end of the year as a release date for “Things.”

Former UA prexy Lindsay Doran now has a production deal with MGM. The Lion also has folded its foreign sales company, London-based G2 Films, headed by Wendy Palmer, into UA. Further, MGM consolidated UA’s Los Angeles development and production team into MGM Pictures under Michael Nathanson.

Coppola rumblings

MGM vice chairman Chris McGurk hasn’t yet appointed anyone to run UA’s production. He has held talks with MGM board member Francis Ford Coppola about merging Coppola’s American Zoetrope into UA and bringing in outside financing, but nothing is finalized.

Sources said that McGurk’s personal relationship with the Disney-based Avnet, which dates back to McGurk’s tenure as president of the Walt Disney Motion Picture Group, was key to UA getting first crack at “Things.” While the deal hasn’t closed yet, both parties expect it to in the next few days.

Fresh focus

Along with “Tea With Mussolini,” which has grossed $13 million in the U.S. for UA, “Things” is the sort of limited release pic that MGM now wants UA to focus on.

The Mexican-born Garcia is a graduate of the American Film Institute. He has lensed pics including “Mi Vida Loca,” “Four Rooms” and “Gia.”

Creative Artists Agency brokered the deal on behalf of Franchise and Avnet, with MGM president of distribution Larry Gleason and MGM president of marketing Gerry Rich.

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