Pacts inked with Disney, MGM as Jashni joins

Hyde Park Entertainment has renewed its first-look deals at MGM and Disney. In addition, company principal Ashok Amritraj has hired “Sweet Home Alabama” exec producer Jon Jashni for the new post of president.

Amritraj inked a three-year co-financing and co-production deal at MGM and a similar five-year arrangement at Disney, which just released Hyde Park’s “Moonlight Mile.”

The domestic deals complement Hyde Park’s five-year extension on its pan-European output deal with Switzerland-based Epsilon (Daily Variety, July 31). Hyde Park also has output deals in South Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and Israel.

Hyde Park plans to produce four titles a year with budgets between $20 million and $80 million.

“I’ve greatly enjoyed working with both Dick (Cook) and Nina (Jacobson) at Disney and Chris (McGurk) and Michael (Nathanson) at MGM,” said Amritraj, who holds the title of Hyde Park chairman-CEO. “I look forward to continuing these relationships.”

Hyde Park provides the bulk of its overhead, with MGM providing office space in its Santa Monica headquarters.

A former production exec at 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures, Jashni was one of the producers on “The Hurricane” and “Anna and the King” and supervised production on “Ever After.”

“I’m glad that Jon and I have joined forces,” Amritraj said. “I look forward to working closely with him.”

Hyde Park is looking to build on Jashni’s ongoing association with Synthesis Entertainment partner Kevin Burns in the exploitation of classic Irwin Allen properties such as “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.”

Among other projects, Synthesis and Hyde Park are developing the Irwin Allen property “I’m excited to be at one of the few significant co-financing companies,” Jashni said. “Ashok’s output deals allow us to pay to play and, in a climate of contraction, it puts us that much further ahead in the game.”

Hyde Park’s production financing is underwritten by Natexis Banques Populaires, which provided Hyde Park’s financing for “Moonlight Mile.”

Natexis Banques Populaires group manager Bennett Pozil said, “Ashok is a great producer, and he has excellent distribution contacts. We’d do this for him a million times over.”

In addition, Amritraj promoted his former assistant, Justin Nelson, to the post of creative exec. He joins a staff that includes Joe D’Angelo as VP of finance.

This summer, Amritraj and producer David Hoberman ended their three-year partnership, with Hoberman taking his own first-look deal at Disney.

Upcoming for Hyde Park and Disney are “Bringing Down the Houze,” which stars Steve Martin and is slated for a first quarter 2003 release, and “Raising Helen,” which stars Kate Hudson and should begin production in February.

Other Disney projects include Adam Shankman’s “Skinner’s Eddy,” which will begin production next summer, and Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, “Personal Injuries,” produced with Punch Prods. and slated to begin production next fall.

“We’ve had a great relationship with Ashok and we’re delighted to be continuing it,” said Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group prexy Nina Jacobson. “Jon Jashni’s a great addition and we’re looking forward to the next chapter.”

In development at MGM are the big-budget “Extractors,” a remake of “Walking Tall” being produced with Lucas Foster, Keith Samples and Jim Burke, and the Kurt Russell starrer “Springer’s Gambit,” which Hyde Park set up at the studio with Russell and Goldie Hawn’s Cosmic Entertainment.

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