Fox Intl. ‘Gangs’ up

Studio arm locks Italo rights to Scorsese epic

For nearly 30 years, the studios shied away from the period gangster drama “Gangs of New York.” However, with the pic’s production nearly complete in Rome, one of the companies that turned down domestic rights to the Martin Scorsese-helmed pic has eagerly snagged one of the last, and possibly most significant, international territories: Italy.

In a pact with Initial Entertainment Group (IEG), which co-financed and is selling the pic’s international rights, 20th Century Fox Intl. is believed to have committed roughly $7 million upfront for the Italian theatrical, vid and TV rights. The deal includes a sweet backend for Fox.

IEG had been in talks with numerous distribs since last year’s Cannes Intl. Film Festival, but delayed cutting a deal for Italy, holding out for the highest payday it could get.

IEG put up $65 million to help finance “Gangs” in exchange for foreign rights. The Italo sale is one of IEG’s last territory pacts.Miramax Films is handling domestic distribution. Splendid Film, in partnership with IEG, takes all German-speaking territory rights.

Currently shooting in Rome, “Gangs of New York” stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz and Liam Neeson.

The epic drama chronicles the criminal exploits of gang members, outlaws, crooked cops and corrupt politicians who flourished in New York City in the middle of the 19th century.

“We were surprised to find the film available in Italy,” said Fox Film Acquisitions senior veep Tony Safford, who negotiated the deal on Fox’s behalf. “If the film is going to work anywhere, it will be in Italy.”

Added IEG CEO Graham King: “Because ‘Gangs of New York’ is being filmed in Rome, the Italian distributor is particularly important to us. We are very happy to be working with 20th Century Fox, which, with one of the strongest marketing teams in the territory, will handle the release of the film to its utmost potential.”

Scott Neeson, prexy of 20th Century Fox Intl. Theatrical said: “We are thrilled to be involved with director Martin Scorsese’s ‘Gangs of New York,’ and our distribution of this film in Italy demonstrates an ongoing commitment to release quality product in that important market.”

“Gangs” is produced by Alberto Grimaldi with Harvey Weinstein, Michael Hausman and Maurizio Grimaldi serving as exec producers. Jay Cocks penned the screenplay, based on the book “Gangs of New York” by Herbert Asbury.

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