Par-based Icon does the Fox trot

Pact calls for Gibson to star in at least one pic

Mel Gibson’s Icon Entertainment has signed a two-year first-look production deal with 20th Century Fox, ending its long-term association with Paramount. Terms of the deal call for Gibson to star in at least one picture for Fox.

Gibson, who heads the production and foreign sales shingle with Bruce Davey, had been expected to move from Par after his deal concluded in December. Speculation heated up in recent days that Icon was shopping for a new home.

In a statement, Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos said, “We consider this new partnership with Icon as a great opportunity to work with an enormous creative talent and a proven team of successful filmmakers. Over the past several years, Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey together have brought to the screen works of lasting impact, and we are thrilled to be in business with them.”

Gianopulos noted Fox’s relationship with Icon dates back to “Braveheart,” which Fox handled internationally. “We had a great experience on ‘Braveheart,’ and we’ve expressed the desire to partner with Icon for several years,” he added.

For Fox, Gibson’s deal is the most significant signing since the studio’s three-year first-look pact last fall with filmmakers Ridley and Tony Scott. Gianopulos noted that other key signings over the past year include Mark Gordon, Jay Roach and Michael Kuhn.

“These deals show we have the support from our parent company to pursue the best and the brightest,” he noted, adding that Fox has now added sufficient capacity to boost its output past the current 16-18 films per year.

Icon develops its own material and sells off the pictures’ international territories, allowing the shingle to act as a co-financer as well as build a valuable library. Gianopulos said Fox was comfortable with that aspect of the relationship due to the strength of other suppliers to Fox’s foreign pipeline.

As for Par, Icon has long been viewed as one of Par’s A-list producers, but that studio has also said that it is less interested in giving up foreign rights to its releases.

“We are changing the mix both in terms of the number of pictures we would consider selling rights on and the number of rights we sell off,” Par chief operating officer Rob Friedman told Daily Variety in January. “We will be retaining more rights in the future” (Daily Variety, Jan. 13).

While co-founder Gibson is the jewel in Icon’s crown, the shingle’s business plan calls for a steady stream of non-Gibson titles, many of which are targeted for the international marketplace.

Icon has produced more than a dozen films since the company took residence at Par in 1995, only four of which were handled domestically by the studio.

These titles were “We Were Soldiers,” now in release; blockbuster “What Women Want”; the Kim Basinger starrer “Bless The Child”; and the BAFTA Award-winning “Fairy Tale: A True Story.”

Par also acquired the Icon production “Kevin and Perry Go Large” but released the film direct to video.

Icon has also branched out to direct distribution, releasing films in both the U.K. as well as Australia.

Other Icon productions include “Braveheart,” “Maverick,” “An Ideal Husband,” “Hamlet” and “The Man Without a Face.” ICM and attorney Tom Hansen brokered the Fox deal.

In a statement, Gibson and Davey said, “Our relationship with 20th Century Fox dates back to the international release of ‘Braveheart,’ and we have been trying to work together again over the years. The partnership at Fox will allow Icon to continue our growth in all areas of the entertainment business.”

Prior to joining Par, Icon was based at Warner Bros. Pictures.

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