Lion to distrib pic Stateside; M'max arm nabs o'seas

A correction was made to this article on Dec. 17, 2003.

MGM and Dimension films spared themselves a race to mount a remake of “The Amityville Horror” by pacting to partner on a single film.

Studios will also co-produce “True Believers,” the MGM-developed film that will mark the Hollywood directing debut of Hideo Nakata.

The “Amityville Horror” deal makes sense for both studios. MGM owned rights to the title of the 1979 horror hit. After Platinum Dunes scored a hit on its first project, a redo of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” MGM moved quickly to bestow the title on the production shingle headed by Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form.

Dimension co-chairman Bob Weinstein then got into the haunted-house game by acquiring a rival project script that was being developed by producers Randall Emmett and George Furla. He also landed rights and cooperation from George Lutz, who lived in the fabled Long Island house when it was supposedly haunted by ghosts.

Though Weinstein would have mounted a movie first for a summer 2004 release, the thrill of beating MGM proved less enticing when Dimension made a rich overall producing deal with the Platinum Dunes trio. Emmett and Furla are no longer attached as executive producers.

MGM will take the lead on production and distribute in domestic territories, while Dimension distributes overseas. Dimension’s project will be folded into the mix, and might serve as sequel material.

MGM avoids the scary prospect of having a great title rendered useless because it would not have beaten Dimension into theaters if two “Amityville Horror” films had been made.

“We’re extremely excited to have worked out such a mutually beneficial partnership with Bob and Dimension to make these films,” said MGM vice chairman-chief operating officer Chris McGurk.

Weinstein said he, too, was pleased with the pact: “I look forward to working with Chris and his MGM team on both projects. I’m happy that this will be the first collaboration with Michael Bay under our new arrangement.”

Bay, Fuller, Form and Ted Field will produce.

Dimension will take the creative lead and handle domestic territories on “True Believers,” an adaptation of the Doug Richardson novel about the intersecting paths of a senator with White House aspirations and a woman who wants to have a child with a death-row inmate who claims to be a messiah. Richardson wrote the script, and the film’s being produced by Arnold Rifkin, David Wally and Richard Gladstein.

It’s the first film Nakata will direct in Hollywood, but he has been preceded by a plethora of remakes of his best Asian horror films. DreamWorks scored a hit with “The Ring,” a redo of his “Ringu.” A remake of Nakata’s “Chaos” is being developed by Universal, Tribeca and producer Laura Bickford as a directing vehicle for “Sexy Beast” helmer Jonathan Glazer, with Benicio Del Toro expected to star with Robert De Niro. Walter Salles just agreed to direct a redo of Nakata’s “Dark Water,” to star Jennifer Connelly.

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