Producer proud of 'Matrix,' 'Potter' from WB stint

Three months after ankling as Warner Bros. production chief, Lorenzo di Bonaventura has signed a three-year first-look production deal with Paramount.

The nonexclusive deal, announced Monday, brings Par a recognized quantity – a studio vet with strong credentials from overseeing Warner’s film slate for more than a decade.

“I’m very proud to be part of the Paramount family,” he said. “They’ve made me feel incredibly welcome.”

Di Bonaventura said he was most proud of “The Matrix,” “Three Kings,” “Training Day,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” during his tenure at Warners. Other major Warner hits recorded since 1996  – when he became co-head of theatrical production – included “Analyze This,” “The Perfect Storm,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “The Green Mile,” “Lethal Weapon 4″ and “Scooby-Doo.”

Di Bonaventura’s future has been the subject of intense speculation following his abrupt departure as Warner’s exec VP of worldwide production in early September.

During the subsequent three months, rumors of a possible producing deal had arisen as he met with top studio execs – that included lunching with Par studio chief Sherry Lansing and prexy John Goldwyn – and set up a range of development deals at Revolution, MGM and Warners in addition to one at Par.

Di Bonaventura does not plan to build a large development staff at Par. He’s already hired one VP, Jeremy Steckler, but wants to keep overhead low – a doctrine he preached to Warner producers while on that lot.

Paramount has an established record of making production deals with former studio execs, including players such as Lansing, Scott Rudin, Stanley Jaffe and Sean Daniel.

Under the agreement, Paramount will finance, market and have worldwide distribution rights to all di Bonaventura’s motion picture projects. His offices will be located on the Paramount lot.

“I am delighted Lorenzo has agreed to join us at Paramount,” Goldwyn said. “His experience as a successful motion picture executive, as well as his extensive filmmaker relationships, make him an important and welcome asset to the Paramount Motion Picture Group. All of us here look forward to a long and prosperous association with him.”

Di Bonaventura, 45, had said when he left Warners in September that he needed a break from work as an exec, asserting that he had arrived at that decision following a three-week trip on the Colorado River. But many insiders believe clashes with Warner prexy Alan Horn played a major role in the departure.

Di Bonaventura worked in a variety of creative, production and distrib slots at Columbia before joining Warners in 1989 as a production exec. He was promoted to VP of production shortly thereafter and named senior VP of production in 1993 and exec VP of production in 1995.

In 1996, Di Bonaventura became co-head of Warners’ theatrical production and became sole president of Warners’ worldwide production in April 1998. In July, he was named to the corporate post of exec VP, worldwide productions, domestic marketing & acquisitions, effectively assuming additional oversight of all feature film marketing.

In that post, he oversaw development of Edward Zwick’s “The Last Samurai,” starring Tom Cruise; Wolfgang Petersen’s “Troy,” starring Brad Pitt; Ridley Scott’s “Matchstick Men,” starring Nicolas Cage; and the third “Harry Potter” film, directed by Alfonso Cuaron.

Production pact is the second signed by Par in the last month. Studio inked a deal with former Paramount TV Group chairman Kerry McCluggage under which the latter launched Craftsman Films to produce features and TV projects (Daily Variety, Nov. 13).

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